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Presented to the 

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO 
LIBRARY 

by the 

ONTARIO LEGISLATIVE 
LIBRARY 



1980 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2010 with funding from 

University of Toronto 



http://www.archive.org/details/twentyyearsofspoOOcarl 



TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 



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TWENTY YEARS 


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SPOOF AND BLUFF 


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HERBERT JENKINS 


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YORK STREET, ST. 


JAMES'S 


LONDON, S.W.I S3 


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WILLIAM BRKNDON AND SON, LTD., PRINTERS, PLYMOUTH, UNOLAND 



0013^02. 



PREFACE 

IT has been said that any man of mature age 
could write at least one interesting book, 
if he confined himself to relating his own 
experiences. 

Well, that is what I have done. This is 
primarily the story of my life, interspersed with 
various anecdotes, " wheezes/' and " gags," per- 
taining to a profession concerning the real inside 
of which the public is mostly ignorant. 

Like Topsy, the book " growed." An incident 
recalled here, a story remembered there, has been 
jotted down at haphazard as the mood seized me. 

I may add that the incidents recorded in 
Chapters XIV. and XV., as also the human tele- 
scope story in Chapter XIII., first saw the light 
in the Strand Magazine, to the Editor of which 
periodical I am indebted for permission to repro- 
duce them here. 



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CONTENTS 

CHAPTER I 

EARLY EXPERIENCES 

Work as a telegraph messenger boy — First attempts at " public " 
entertainment — Small but appreciative audiences — I intro- 
duce the cycle to the post office — Christmas-boxing on my 
own — I am rewarded with the " Order of the Sack " — Hard 
times — A home-made conjuring outfit — On tramp to South- 
end — Busking on the sands — Wrathful " niggers " — " Stage " 
fright — " Best clear, kid " — I clear — On the road back to 
London — Hunger and thirst — Four shows for fourpence — 
A " welcome " home — No food in the house and the brokers 
in — " Covering the spot " — Jimmy Jennings — I win watches 
— Beat a game and gain a friend — " A quick way of making 
money " — Learning to be a street patterer — Tricks of the 
showman's trade — Nearly a riot — Jimmy grows anxious — 
Good-bye to London once more — A new pitch — And the 
beginning of a new life ....... 



CHAPTER II 

I POSE AS A SHOWMAN 

Practising conjuring — Why I rarely play cards — The great 
Maskelyne and Cooke box trick — I make a trick box of my 
own — The " Flying Lady " who flew — away — In partner- 
ship with Gypsy Brown — My life with the show folk — I 
begin to make money — The kings of the fair grounds — 
Caravan life and cookery — The Romany people and their 
ways — Gypsy Brown cheats me — How the " bluers " work — 
Fights in the Fair Ground — The etiquette of the showmen — 
In a boxing booth — Taking on all comers — A rough life — 
" Do a slang to get a pitch " — The tricks of the travelling 
boxing-booth proprietors — A gypsy duel with cocoanut balls 17 



CHAPTER III 

WITH THE GYPSIES 

I start a show of my own — Gypsy Brown plays me a dirty trick- — 
The hunchback in the box — Bank Holiday at Cheriton Fair 
— I plan to circumvent Gypsy Brown — And succeed only too 
well — The crowd wrecks Brown's booth — Pandemonium in 

vii 



viii TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

PAGE 

the fair ground — The gypsies attack my show — The fate 
of a peace-maker — My fight with Gypsy Brown — /io to £i 
on my opponent and no takers — A knock-out blow — Gypsy 
Brown vows revenge — My life in danger — How I outwitted 
the gypsies — The last of my experiences as a fair-ground 
showman ......... 30 



CHAPTER IV 

THE TRICK THAT FAILED 

Back in London — At the Westminster Aquarium — " The Pro.'s 
Casual Ward " — Zaeo's Maze> — " Oriental beauties from the 
Far East-End of London " — " Fake " side-shows — A " fast- 
ing lady's " prodigious appetite — A lively subject for a 
coffin — I sell conjuring tricks to visitors — " Uncle " Ritchie 
— An audience of one — Annie Luker, the champion lady 
high diver — I find myself barred from the Aquarium — The 
mysterious voice in the maze — Mr. Ritchie investigates — 
And Mr. Wieland scores — Penny-gaffing in London — Work- 
ing the shops — Sham hypnotism — How to eat coal and 
candles — And drink paraffin oil — The box trick again — 
Venice in Newcastle — I offer a /1000 prize — The trick that 
failed — My first engagement in a regular " hall " — My 
absent-minded partner . . . . . . 41 

CHAPTER V 

CLIMBING TO FAME AND FORTUNE 

I give an impromptu show at the Palace Theatre — " Chuck him 
out ! " — I seek out Mr. Wieland again — At the Crystal 
Palace — I adopt my present make-up — " The Human 
Hairpin " — Charlie Coborn and " Two Lovely Black Eyes " 
— I do a trial turn at the Bedford Music-hall — Billed as a 
star turn at the Alhambra and Palace Theatres — And at 
the " Flea Pit," Hoxton — My reception there — I work 
the Alhambra, Palace, Middlesex, Metropolitan, and Cam- 
bridge together — A record for those days — A Press " spoof " 
— Continental engagements — Paris, Milan — An overdose of 
Chianti — And its results — The night life of Milan — A blood- 
curdling adventure — Murder most foul — Callous passers-by 54 

CHAPTER VI 

PLAYING IN HUNLAND 

Vienna and the Viennese — Churls by nature and instinct — How 
I made " There's a Girl in Havana " go down there — 
Chorus men and waiters — Some innocent tricks of the music- 
hall trade — In Berlin — Death of my giant — Official boorish- 
ness — German sharp practice — I engage a Hun giant — 
Uncomfortable railway travelling — At Buda-Pesth — More 
sharp practice — I throw up my engagement and return to 
England in disgust — Litigation and worry — My case is 



CONTENTS ix 

PAGE 

taken up by the Variety Artistes' Federation — A new 
" Battle of Prague " — Which I lose — A story of a " mis- 
spelled " railway station- — Back in Old England — A day's 
rabbit shooting — The two " Arthur Carltons " ... 72 

CHAPTER VII 

AUSTRALIAN EXPERIENCES 

Eastward bound on the Ovtona — Dinners and diners — Spoofing 
a chief steward — A brush with the master-at-arms — " Queer- 
ing " a poker game — Trouble in the smoke-room — We plan 
revenge — And execute it — Potatoes as ammunition — The 
cold water cure — The Captain sends for me — I decline to go 
— Trouble brewing — I run my head into the lion's mouth — 
And am frog-marched before the captain — A stormy 
interview — I am threatened to be put in irons — All's well 
that ends well — A benefit performance at sea — Arrival in 
Melbourne — A tale of two champions — Rabbit shooting 
extraordinary — I bag a laughing jackass — And am hauled 
before the " beak " — Fined ten shillings and costs — I am 
glad at having " got the bird " — The " interfering parrot " 90 

CHAPTER VIII 

MELBOURNE TO LONDON 

The " Under the Earth " bar in Melbourne — A swimming chal- 
lenge spoof — The Australian Vaudeville Association — My 
connection therewith — They present me with an Address — 
At Adelaide — A cheery send-off — I bring to London with me 
Charlie Griffin, the feather-weight Australian champion — Fix 
up a match at the London National Sporting Club' — I train 
him myself during a pantomime engagement — He is beaten 
by Jim Driscoll — But afterwards defeats Joe Bowker — My 
fight at the National Sporting Club with "Apollo " — All the 
" pro.'s " present — A great night — I am beaten by "Apollo " 
— Congratulations all round — Only Mrs. " Carlton " does 
not approve — Other boxing and sporting yarns . . .107 

CHAPTER IX 

SOME AMERICAN EXPERIENCES 

To New York on the Mauretania — Gambling on ocean liners — A 
" dear " old gentleman — Phenomenal luck — My suspicions 
are aroused — I play the part of a private detective — A 
puzzling proposition — The light that shone by night — My 
suspicions are confirmed — An artful dodge — A new use for 
smoke-coloured glasses — Doctored cards — The most beautiful 
American city — Los Angeles — Tuna fishing at Santa Catalina 
— Monsters of 400 lb. weight — The Tuna Clut> — A record 
catch — Fishing with kites — Wild goat stalking — Outwitting 
a gambler — Diamond cut diamond — A ride on an ostrich — 
American police methods — An unpleasant experience . 121 



x TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

CHAPTER X 
MORE AMERICAN EXPERIENCES 



PAGE 



Through the Great American Desert — A land of desolation — An 
adventure at Santa Fe — "Hands up!" — Railway strike 
methods in the wild and woolly West — At Kansas City — 
The Magicians' Club — " Welcome to our city " — A dis- 
appointing show — In the land of the Mormons — Salt Lake 
City — Brigham Young's seraglio — The Mormon Temple and 
Tabernacle — Something like an angel — Brigham Young's 
statue — My worst Press notice — A journalistic tragedy — In 
New York — I am served a scurvy trick — Hammerstein's — 
A row with the management — Sharp Yankee practice — I 
perform in the New York Synagogue in the presence of the 
Chief Rabbi — A unique honour — Rubber-neck cars — The 
almighty dollar — The Statue of Liberty — A suggestive 
pose — New York hotels — A tip as to boots . . . 1 36 

CHAPTER XI 

PANTOMIME SPOOFS AND JOKES 

Harry Tate and I — Together we found the order of " The Beauti- 
ful Swells " — The Birmingham spoof supper — A mouth- 
watering menu — The " Beautiful Swells " anthem — Cock- 
roach soup — Property viands — A mysterious waiter — Ernie 
Lotinga's little joke — The spoof ers spoofed — A pigeon pie 
that flew — A surplus of farthings — Rehearsing for panto- 
mime — My first rehearsal — I am " fired " out of the theatre 
— Pantomime in Hoxton — The gallery boy's irony—A 
cutting retort — I get married — Courting under difficulties 
— The married chorus-girl and the lovesick manager — Supper 
for two in a private room — Hoaxing the police — A sham 
tragedy and its sequel — The fat policeman and the big lobster 
— Sold again ........ 149 

CHAPTER XII 

AFRICA AND THE ORIENT 

Bound for Cape Town — A pleasant voyage — Ships' games — A 
contrast in voyages — " Cock-fighting " at sea — " Chalking the 
Pig's Eye" — "Swinging the Monkey" — Marine cricket — A 
new kind of golf — Cycling at sea — Sweepstakes on the vessel's 
run — Races on the ocean wave — Mock breach-of-promise 
trials — By bullock waggon to Kimberley — I perform before 
Cecil Rhodes — Get shot in a street row — Contrast on my 
second visit — The great strike riots in Johannesburg — Fire 
and dynamite — A night of horror — A gay but expensive city 
— Dear drinks — Performing in the back veldt — Eggs for 
throwing — At Pretoria — Kruger's house — Where Winston 
Churchill swam the river — A disappointing stream — My prize 
giant — A Jo' burg sensation — Buying a forty-shilling suit 
to measure — A disgusted tailor — Special railway travelling — 
My giant proves his agility — In Colombo — Indian fakirs — 
Their conjuring skill overrated — The boy and rope trick — 



CONTENTS xi 

PAGE 

Two versions of a similar story — The whole thing a fake — 
The evidence of H.H. the Maharajah of Jodhpur — I offer 
£100 to any native who can do it — No takers — The mango 
seed trick — Outwitting a fakir — " Let me plant the seed " — 
The camera in action — The Tree of Life — Cobra and mon- 
goose fight . . . . . . . . i 66 

CHAPTER XIII 

WHEEZES AND GAGS 

The social side of music-hall life — The Vaudeville Club— A tele- 
phone wheeze — The swanking " pro." and his mythical 
salary — About " tops " and " bottoms " — Ring up " 625 
Chiswick " — " Big Fred " and Fred Lindrum — A queer 
billiard match — An unexpected denouement — Roberts and 
the Australian billiard marker — I make of myself a human 
telescope — Growing to order — Willard the original " man 
who grew" — Puzzling a Scotland Yard '"tec" — My most 
wonderful fall — I make a " hit " in a double sense — A 
Wigan wheeze — The performer who got too much " bird " — 
A blood-thirsty barber — My worst insult . . .183 

CHAPTER XIV 

THE BIGGEST NEWSPAPER SPOOF ON RECORD 

How the great spoof first came into my mind — Hoaxing the 
newspaper Press of two continents — Telepathy and thought- 
transference — The incredulous reporter — I propose a drastic 
test — A representative of the Bristol Times and Mirror hides 
a stylograph pen in an unknown quarter of the city — I am 
blindfolded and find it — Amazement and enthusiasm of the 
people — A column report in the newspaper — An insoluble 
problem — Various theories as to how it was done — An indoors 
test imposed by the Editor of the Bath Chronicle — Blind- 
folded through the streets of Bath — Vast crowds — I am 
again successful — Press and public alike bewildered — Hoax- 
ing the Yankees — The Oakland, California, Tribune's test — 
Two hundred and fifty dollars in gold hidden — The Secretary 
of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce is chosen to secrete 
the treasure — Again I am successful — My best free Press 
"ad." — Congratulations all round ..... 203 

CHAPTER XV 

HOW THE BIG SPOOF WAS WORKED 

Muscle training on novel lines — How not to be blindfolded — 
Artificially developed frontal muscles — The advantage of 
possessing a prominent proboscis — Following one's nose — 
I study boots — A Sherlock Holmes of footwear — Acting 
blind — Not so easy as it sounds — Queer happenings at 
Halifax — A mishap at Leeds — Police stop the performance — 
A curious mischance at Bath — Ingenious explanations to 
account for the feat — Invisible wires — Guided by bugle calls 
— Following the scent . . . . . . .213 



xii TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUF 

CHAPTER XVI 
TELEPATHIC AND MESMERIC SPOOFS 

PAGE 

Real spiritualism and sham mesmerism — Spoof seances — I ring 
one off on my landlady — The self -playing piano — The 
spirit that walked upside-down — Some simple explanations 
— Manufacturing a telepathist to order — Thought-reading 
extraordinary — The colour test- — Telepathy by wire — A brief , 
dream of wealth — A sleepy wife and a hidden match-box — 
The dead-head who was spoofed' — A disconcerting reception 
— Story of Houdini, the " Handcuff King " — More telepathy 
— Over the telephone this time — A puzzling link — And the' 
explanation . . . . . . . . .226 

CHAPTER XVII 

SHARPS AND FLATS 

Spoofing a mesmerist — The spoofer spoofed — Spoof card tricks — 
Racecourse sharps — The " dud " diamond wheeze — I am 
beautifully " had " — Three-card trick sharps — A Newcastle 
adventure- — Bunny's spoof — Spoofing a " new chum " — The 
performing elephant and the dude — Wheezes and gags . 242 

CHAPTER XVIII 

FLOTSAM AND JETSAM 

Sharing terms — Some tricks of the trade — Spoof telegrams — A 
Bradford dispute — I engage to fight " The Terror of the 
Meat Market " — A packed house — I enter a lion's den — 
And am glad to get out again — A trick the police foiled — 
Tricks of trick swimmers — I learn a secret or two — Pigeon 
shooting extraordinary — "Satan's Dream" — Royalty at a 
side-show — My mother hears me over the electrophone- — 
At Wentworth Woodhouse — A kind reception — My em- 
barrassing mistake — An angler's paradise . . . 263 

CHAPTER XIX 

IN EGYPT IN WAR-TIME 

My trip to the land of the Pharaohs — Giants and dwarfs on 
a P. & O. liner — We are ordered into Plymouth — Sub- 
marines — An exciting experience — Destroyers to the rescue 
— The dwarfs and the lifebelts — Sports at sea — My con- 
tortionist is taken ill — Anxious days — Kindness of the 
Maharajah of Jodhpur — Arrival at Port Said — Cairo — 
I engage another contortionist — Pelted with money — Pigs 
at Port Said — Captured Turkish pontoons at Cairo — 
Turkish prisoners playing tennis — Interned enemy ships at 
Alexandria — Wounded soldiers — At the Pyramids- — Ammu- 
nition from India — On the way home — Across France in 
war-time — The Channel passage — Elaborate precautions — 
Submarine nets — Paris in war-time — Madrid in war-time , 280 




ILLUSTRATIONS 



CARLTON — OFF ....... . Frontispiece 

TO FACE PAGE 

Carlton — On ......... 20 

Carlton and One of his Satellites at the Theatrical 

Garden Party, London, 1919 ..... 50 

Carlton Mesmerising Bobby Dunlop .... 74 

Bobby Dunlop, Carlton's American " Fat Man," who 

dropped dead in berlin ...... 78 

Carlton and his Trainer, Dai Dollings, the Famous Welsh 

Athlete, stripped ready for his Fight with Apollo . 114 

Carlton and Jimmy Wilde at the National Sporting Club . 116 

Official Photograph of a Record Catch of Yellow Fin Tuna 
caught by carlton and another fisherman jointly at 
Santa Catalina . . . . . . . .130 

The " Beautiful Swells " Spoof Supper — a Page of Carica- 
tures by Tom Webster . . . . . .152 

Arrival in Johannesburg of Carlton, his Giant, and his 

Dwarf . . . . . . . . .174 

Carlton as a " Human Telescope " . . . . .192 

Portion of Front Page of the "Oakland Tribune" with 

Report of Carlton's Treasure Hunt in that City . 206 

Crowd in Bradford watching Carlton's Search for the 

Hidden " Telegraph " Badge ..... 222 

Crowd at Oakland (California) watching Carlton's Search 

for Hidden Treasure ....... 222 

Carlton and Billy Grant, the Open Champion Pigeon Shot 

of Scotland ........ 272 



TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 



TWENTY YEARS OF 
SPOOF AND BLUFF 



CHAPTER I 

EARLY EXPERIENCES 

Work as a telegraph messenger boy — First attempts at " public " 
entertainment — Small but appreciative audiences — I intro- 
duce the cycle to the Post Office — Christmas-boxing on my 
own — I am rewarded with the " Order of the Sack " — Hard 
times — A home-made conjuring outfit — On tramp to South- 
end — Busking on the sands — Wrathful " niggers " — " Stage " 
fright — " Best clear, kid " — I clear — On the road back to 
London — Hunger and thirst — Four shows for fourpence — 
A " welcome " home — No food in the house and the brokers 
in — " Covering the spot " — Jimmy Jennings — I win watches 
— Beat a game and gain a friend — " A quick way of 
making money " — Learning to be a street patterer — Tricks 
of the showman's trade — Nearly a riot — Jimmy grows 
anxious — Good-bye to London once more — A new pitch — 
And the beginning of a new life . 

MY first experience as a public conjuror 
and card manipulator dates back some- 
where about five-and-twenty years. 
Sheer necessity drove me to it. A slim, shy youth 
of sixteen, or thereabouts, I was out of a job at 
the time, with no prospect, so far as I could see, 
of getting into one. 

This was awkward, because I was practically 
the sole support of my widowed mother, who was 
a cripple, and four young sisters. So, as a last 
resort, I determined to tramp down to some 



4 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

seaside town, and try and earn a little money 
busking on the sands. 

As a boy I had worked for a while as a telegraph 
messenger, one of those blind-alley occupations 
that lead nowhere, and I had frequently watched 
peripatetic conjurors giving their shows at street 
corners and elsewhere. These exhibitions had 
always had a great fascination for me, and I 
presently started to try and copy their tricks. 

It was difficult at first, for I had no one to 
teach or advise me, but I persevered, and was 
able in time to do quite a variety of simple stock 
tricks with cards, coins, etc. My audiences were 
small but appreciative, consisting as they did of 
my fellow telegraph messengers attached to the 
old Buckingham Gate Post Office in the Bucking- 
ham Palace Road — long since done away with — 
where I was then stationed. Afterwards I was 
sent to the Castelnau Post Office, Barnes, which 
was situated at a chemist's shop. 

Here I had plenty of spare time on my hands, 
telegrams being comparatively few and far 
between. The distances I had to travel to deliver 
them, however, were often considerable, and this 
gave me an idea. I was at the time the proud 
possessor of an ancient solid- tyred bicycle. This 
I requisitioned in order to cover the ground more 
quickly, a complete novelty in those days, when 
cycles for post-office work were not even thought 

of. 

My " boss," the sub-postmaster, was par- 
ticularly struck with the innovation, and he wrote 
to the Postmaster-General about it, with the 
unexpected, and to me very gratifying result, 
that I received from the Department an extra 
allowance of three shillings and sixpence a week 
for the upkeep, etc., of my machine. Afterwards 



EARLY EXPERIENCES 5 

the practice received general official sanction, and 
in time became well-nigh universal. But I can, I 
believe, truthfully lay claim to having been its 
originator, and I was certainly the first telegraph 
messenger-boy to ride a cycle for the Post Office 
in an official capacity. 

From Barnes I was sent to Battersea, where our 
family had also gone to live, and it was here that 
my too-enterprising spirit led to the severance of 
my connection with the Post Office Service. It 
came about in this way. When Christmas came 
round I was given a temporary job as auxiliary 
postman. We boys used to hear the regular 
postmen talk a lot about their Christmas-boxes 
and the fine harvest of tips they expected to reap, 
and I did not see why, as I was doing my share of 
the work, I should not share in the pickings. 

So, very early on Boxing Day morning, before 
the regular postman had started out to " box 
his walk," I went round and collected the gratui- 
ties, or at all events a considerable portion of 
them. I didn't say I was the postman, but simply 
knocked and asked for a Christmas box, and 
being a tall youth the money was mostly handed 
over to me without demur. Later on, of course, 
when the regular postman called round, there was 
an awful row, and I was called upon to resign ; 
a polite way of investing me with the " order of 
the sack." In this dilemma, as narrated above, I 
purposed turning to account my knowledge of 
conjuring in order to earn a livelihood, or try to. 

As a preliminary I went and begged the lid of 
a cheese-box from a near-by shop. This I covered 
with a bit of old cloth my mother gave me, and 
trimmed it round with a yard or so of penny- 
threefarthing ball fringe. Next I set my trans- 
mogrified cheese-box lid on top of three thin 



6 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

bamboo canes, arranged tripod- wise, and behold 
I was in possession of quite a pretty little table, 
such as street conjurors affect. 

Next I procured a rabbit — all conjurors had to 
have a rabbit in those days — and some balls and 
tins for what is called the cup-and-ball trick, 
together with a pack of cards, and a few other 
simple paraphernalia, not forgetting half-a-dozen 
pennies — in conjuring parlance " a pile of megs " 
— for palming and working disappearing coin 
tricks. Thus equipped, I set out. I had been 
told that Southend was the best place to go to, 
and as I had no money to pay my fare I had to 
walk there, carrying my poor little " props " 
with me. 

It was weary work. The long dusty road 
seemed endless. Several times I was tempted to 
go into a public-house and try and do a show. 
But directly I set up my little table, my nerve 
forsook me, and out I came again. When night 
fell I chopped some wood for a farmer's wife, who 
gave me in return a glass of milk and a crust of 
bread and cheese and permission to sleep in the 
barn. 

Eventually I reached Southend, hungry, 
thirsty, and footsore. Also I was penniless, 
having been forced to part with my six coppers 
in order to keep myself in food on the road, 
thereby spoiling my best tricks. All day long I 
prowled about, watching the buskers at work on 
the beach, but never being able to pluck up 
sufficient courage to make a start myself. 

I had managed to get a room by promising to 
pay at the end of the week, but after the first 
morning, when I ate a breakfast that I am afraid 
astonished and frightened my landlady, I was 
denied further board unless I paid something on 



EARLY EXPERIENCES 7 

account, which, of course, I was unable to do. 
For three days I prowled around, living as best 
I could, watching with hungry eyes the picnic 
parties on the beach, and greedily devouring the 
scraps they left after they took their departure. 
I never felt so famished in all my life before. 

On the morning of the fourth day, a Bank 
Holiday, a letter came from my mother. She wrote 
that she had got the brokers in, that my little 
sisters were crying for bread, and would I please 
send her some money ? That did it. I felt that 
it was now or never. And, marching down to the 
beach, I set up my little table, and soon had quite 
a respectable audience — respectable in point of 
size that is to say — gathered round me. 

Then again the fatal shyness came over me ; 
stage fright in its first, worst, and most terrible 
form — only there was no stage. My legs shook 
under me, my knees knocked together, my tongue 
felt as if glued to the roof of my mouth. I almost 
think I would have made a bolt for it once more, 
but for the fact that the crowd hemmed me in on 
every side. 

Ten minutes passed by. My audience began to 
show unmistakable signs of impatience. " Get a 
move on, kid ! " they cried ; " start your bloomin' 
show.'' Thus adjured I began. But just as I was 
in the middle of my first trick, there was a com- 
motion on the outskirts of the crowd, people 
jostling and shoving, pushing and being pushed, 
and a moment or two later four burly nigger 
minstrels burst through to where I was. I got a 
punch on the back of my neck that sent me 
sprawling, and when I scrambled to my feet I was 
just in time to see my poor little cheese-box table 
go flying seaward, propelled by a vigorous kick 
from the biggest and burliest of the niggers. 



8 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

I was too weak from hunger to even try to 
retaliate, too flabbergasted at the unexpected, 
and as it seemed to me unprovoked and un- 
warrantable, attack to attempt to expostulate 
even. I just stood stock-still, open-mouthed and 
trembling, while the leader of the buskers asked 
me, in language the reverse of polite, what in 
thunder I meant by taking their pitch, for which 
they paid, and which nobody else therefore had 
the right to occupy ? 

There was some further talk, and then I learnt 
for the first time that the sands at Southend 
belonged to the corporation, and that buskers 
were not allowed to perform there without per- 
mission, and without paying for the privilege. 
Naturally I was terribly downhearted at this, and 
I suppose I showed it, for after the niggers had 
given their show they clubbed round amongst 
themselves, and handed me two shillings. " Best 
clear out, youngster/' they told me, not unkindly. 
" You can't do anything here without capital/ ' 

Their advice seemed good advice. So that very 
day I started to tramp back to London. I had 
retrieved my table, and although I had been 
compelled to sell my rabbit in order to buy food 
during my stay in Southend, I still had with me 
my pack of cards, and one or two other trifles. 
With these, on the way back, I gave four shows 
at as many separate " pubs." One of these shows 
netted me fourpence, the other three yielded 
nothing. I reached home after a week's absence, 
weak, weary, and ill, to find a welcome of words 
waiting for me, and that was all. There was not 
a morsel of food in the house, not even the pro- 
verbial crust, and the broker's man had cleared 
out most of the furniture. 

For these reasons I am not likely ever to forget 



EARLY EXPERIENCES 9 

my first " provincial tour." That night I cried 
myself to sleep, the hunger gnawed at my vitals, 
and I don't believe there was an unhappier lad in 
England than I was just then. 

Next morning I felt a little better ; but not 
much. However, it was, I reflected, no good 
sitting down and repining, and I started out to 
look for work. After a while I got a job as 
potman and under-barman at seven shillings a 
week in a public-house in the Battersea Park 
Road. 

One day a travelling conjuror came into the 
saloon bar, and did a few tricks with coins. The 
proprietor was greatly interested in the show, and 
the next day, when he and I were having dinner 
together in a little recess behind the bar, he 
remarked : 

" Clever chap that conjuror who was here yester- 
day. Those coin tricks of his were wonderful/ ' 

" Oh ! " I replied, " I didn't think very much 
of them. Why I could do better than that myself. 
Look here ! " And I took a penny from my 
pocket, and palming it from one hand to the other 
I made it disappear before his eyes. 

To my unbounded surprise my employer 
promptly jumped up, his face crimson with rage. 
" You young rascal ! " he cried. " That's quite 
enough for me. I've been missing money from 
the till for quite a long while now. Out you go ! " 
And, suiting the action to his words, he seized me 
by the scruff of the neck and the seat of my 
trousers, and threw me out of the house on to the 
pavement. 

When I got home and told my story, my mother 
was naturally very much upset, and she went 
round and expostulated with the landlord ; but 
all to no purpose. He insisted that money had 



io TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

been missed, and that I must be the thief, as there 
was nobody else who could have taken it except 
the head barman, and he had been with them a 
long while and was quite above suspicion. 

This individual, who slept in the same room as 
myself, was, I may add, a very great pet of the 
landlady, who was firmly convinced that he could 
do nothing wrong. 

Yet he was the thief all the while, as it turned 
out ; for some little time afterwards, and while 
I was away in the country, he was convicted and 
sentenced to three months' imprisonment, the 
stolen money having been found in his box. My 
mother sent me a copy of the local paper with the 
account of the police-court proceedings. 

Some few years later I had succeeded in making 
a name for myself. I was at the Palace Theatre in 
Shaftesbury Avenue, and my name was blazoned 
in letters a foot long on the buses, and on all the 
hoardings in London. It was a hot day, and I felt 
thirsty. I turned into a little " pub " in Welling- 
ton Street, Strand. There behind the bar was 
my old " boss." 

I had grown a lot in the intervening years, and 
he didn't know me ; but I knew him directly. 

Over a whisky-and-soda we got into conversa- 
tion, and presently he asked me who I was. 

" My name is Carlton/' I said, " I'm at the 
Palace Theatre this week." 

" Oh yes," he replied, " of course. I saw you 
the other evening. Wonderful good show, yours." 

" Glad you like it," I said. " But say — do you 
remember the day when you took me by the 
scruff of my neck and threw me out of your old 
place in the Battersea Park Road, after accusing 
me of stealing money from the till ; money that 
your wife's favourite boy afterwards got three 



EARLY EXPERIENCES n 

months for stealing ? Do you remember that 
—eh ? " 

The landlord looked surprised. So did his wife, 
who was behind the bar with him at the time. 
But they would neither of them admit that they 
remembered anything about the affair. 

Of course they did, though ; only they would 
not acknowledge it. Possibly they thought I 
might bring an action against them, even after 
the lapse of all that time, for wrongful dismissal 
and defamation of character. 

But to resume the thread of my story. At the 
time I was thrown out of the " pub," and out of 
work at the same time, we used to live in the 
neighbourhood of Clapham Junction, in a turning 
off the Falcon Road. 

There was a man at a pitch near here who 
earned his living at a game called " covering the 
spot." On a table covered with white oil-cloth 
he had painted several round red spots, each about 
as big as a plate. The player was given five tin 
discs, for which he paid a penny, and his aim was 
to drop these on one of the spots so as to com- 
pletely cover it, leaving not even a peep of the red 
showing. If he succeeded in doing this he got a 
watch, which the proprietor of the game, if the 
winner so willed it, would buy back again for 
three shillings and sixpence. 

It was rather a fascinating game to watch, and 
having nothing else in particular to do I stood and 
watched it for a long while. He was a splendid 
patterer, was the proprietor, and he was simply 
raking in the pennies like dirt all the while. The 
game was new then. 

" Money for nothing ! " was one of his stock 
phrases he kept shouting out. So it was " money 
for nothing," but he was the man who got the 



12 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

money, I noticed. " If you don't speculate, you 
can't accumulate/ ' was another of his gags. 
" This, gentlemen, is a scientific game of skill. 
Span your tins and drop them on. Try it ! Try 
it ! Try it ! Cover the red, and carry off a 
watch. Hide the red you win ; show the red you 
lose. Come along, gents ! Come along ! Come 
along ! Faint heart never won fair lady ! " And 
so on, and so on. And in between his patter, at 
intervals, he would himself " cover the red " with 
the five discs to demonstrate how easily it could 
be done. 

I kept watching him closely, and I saw there 
was a knack in it. Afman who had tried twenty or 
thirty times, but without success, was turning 
away. On the impulse of the moment I spoke to 
him. " I can do it," I said. " Lend me a penny 
and let me try ; we'll go halves if I win." 

The man looked at me rather dubiously. " Why 
don't you risk your own money ? " he asked. 
" Because I haven't got any," I replied. " Oh 
well, in that case here you are," he said ; and he 
handed me a penny. 

I dropped the discs one by one, carefully, 
methodically, slowly, and — I covered the red. 
A great shout went up from the crowd. Every- 
body was delighted, including the proprietor. He 
wanted somebody to win occasionally, but not 
too often, and he made a tremendous fuss. 

"Hi! Hi ! Hi ! " he cried. " The boy's won 
a watch. Come along, you sports, now. Come and 
do likewise. Don't let a lad like this beat you." 

He handed me the watch, and I gave it back to 
him, receiving in return thrce-and-sixpence. This, 
he explained, was because the law would not allow 
him to give a money prize direct. It was my first 
experience of how simple a thing it is to get round 



EARLY EXPERIENCES 13 

an inconvenient legal enactment, though not my 
last one by any means. 

After sharing the cash with the " capitalist " 
who had financed my venture, I still had of course 
one shilling and ninepence left, and I invested a 
penny of this on my own account in another five 
discs. 

Again I won. Things were getting lively. The 
crowd cheered louder than ever. I was more than 
cheerful. The proprietor tried his best to look 
cheerful also, but there was a glint of anxiety in 
his eyes. 

For the third time I tried my luck, but this time 
I just failed. Or so, at least, the proprietor 
asserted. Producing a pin, he inserted the point 
between two of the discs without moving either 
of them, thereby proving to his satisfaction, if not 
quite to mine, that the red was not completely 
covered. Here was a new trick of the trade, I 
reflected ; no smallest patch of red was visible, 
but the pin's point showed apparently that it 
existed, therefore I had lost. 

" Try ! Try ! Try again ! " shouted the show- 
man. " Faint heart never won fair lady." 

I took his advice, and this time I succeeded once 
more. This made three wins in four tries. 
" Clever lad ! " cried the crowd. But the proprietor 
looked glum. He leaned over the table and 
implored me in a stage whisper to go away. 

I went, taking with me my eight shillings and 
sixpence winnings. That night the family sat 
down to a real, slap-up hot supper of tripe and 
onions, the first square meal that any of us had 
eaten for many a long day. 

As for me, I was in high glee. I had, I con- 
sidered, hit on a quick and easy way of making 
money. Next evening I sauntered down to where 



14 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

the showman had his pitch, and directly he had 
got his table set up I marched in, and soon won 
another watch. 

This was too much for the proprietor. He 
called me on one side. 

" Look here," he said, " you're too hot for me. 
Come and have a drink." 

We adjourned to the " Queen Victoria " public- 
house, and he called for a large rum for himself. 
I had a " small lemon." 

Over our drinks we discussed business, or rather 
he did. His name, he informed me, was Jimmy 
Jennings. 

" I have been in the business for years," he 
went on, " but I've never run up against a 
smarter lad than you are at the game. You're 
hot stuff, and no mistake. Tell you what now. 
There's room for a couple of stalls at my pitch. 
Will you work for me if I put another one up for 
you to take charge of ? I'll pay you five shillings 
a night, and ten per cent, on the takings. What 
do you say ? " 

Naturally, I was quite agreeable, and the follow- 
ing day, true to his promise, Jimmy had a table 
fixed up all ready for me to start. Being pretty 
well known in the neighbourhood I soon had 
plenty of customers, and raked in a good lot of 
money. Here, too, I first learnt to do the show- 
man's patter, for Jimmy, as I have already 
intimated, was a splendid patterer, and I, being 
all the time at the next stall to him, naturally 
picked up the art from him, almost without effort 
on my part. 

Also I learnt many tricks of the showman's 
trade, more especially as regards the particular 
stunt we were working. I was shown, for instance, 
that although the five red spots on the tables 



EARLY EXPERIENCES 15 

looked to be all exactly of one size, they were not 
so in reality. As regards four of them, although 
they could just be covered by the discs, the task 
was so exceedingly difficult a one as to be almost 
impossible of achievement. The fifth spot, how- 
ever, was slightly smaller than the others, and the 
feat of covering it, therefore, was comparatively 
easy. 

But as it was impossible to detect the smaller 
spot without actually measuring it, the chances 
were five to one against any player, picking his 
spot at haphazard, as of course he invariably did, 
choosing the easiest one. When either of us 
performed the feat for the benefit of the onlookers, 
however, we naturally always used the small spot. 
It was due to my sharpness in detecting this fact 
■ — though not until after long watching — coupled 
with a natural dexterity and quickness of hand, 
that had enabled me to win the watches in the 
first instance. 

I might also mention that the flares which we 
used to illuminate our stalls — we did not usually 
start performing until after dark — were so 
arranged as to throw the light slantwise to our 
side of the table where the smaller spot was. This 
enabled us, if we performed the trick quickly — and 
this we invariably did — to leave a little bit of red 
showing without the audience being able to detect 
the fact. This was both handy and necessary, for 
even when working on the smaller spot, and not- 
withstanding all our acquired dexterity, we were 
neither of us so clever at it as to be able to bring 
off the trick with certainty every time. 

And one had to be very careful, and exercise 
plenty of tact. The main thing was to keep the 
crowd in a good humour. That is where the art 
of the patterer comes in. We should have stood 



16 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

but a poor chance without it. Even as it was 
there were rows. One of the worst was on my 
account. A man in the audience asserted that 
I was standing on a box, and that that was why 
I was able to perform the trick. " Let me come 
round your side of the table and mount your 
box," he cried, " and I'll do it as easily as you 
can." 

In vain I assured him that I was not standing 
on a box, that it was only my unusual height — 
6 ft. 2 \ ins. — that made it appear to him as if I 
were. He protested, began to get obstreperous, 
tried to force his way round. The crowd took 
sides, for and against : mostly against. There 
was something approaching a free fight, and we 
were afraid the stalls would be mobbed and 
wrecked. However, a policeman appeared on the 
scene, and things quieted down after a bit. 

But Jimmy looked thoughtful that night after 
we had closed down. 

" Look here, laddie," he said presently, " this 
pitch is getting a bit too hot. Tonbridge Fair 
opens next week. We'll pack up and open there." 

Which we did. 

So closed one chapter of my life. The next one 
was to open amongst far different surroundings. 



CHAPTER II 

I POSE AS A SHOWMAN 

Practising conjuring — Why I rarely play cards — The great 
Maskelyne and Cooke box trick — I make a trick box of my 
own — The " Flying Lady " who flew — away — In partner- 
ship with Gypsy Brown — My life with the show folk — I 
begin to make money — The kings of the fair grounds — 
Caravan life and cookery — The Romany people and their 
ways — Gypsy Brown cheats me — How the " bluers " work — 
Fights in the Fair Ground — The etiquette of the showmen — 
In a boxing booth — Taking on all comers — A rough life — 
" Do a slang to get a pitch " — The tricks of the travelling 
boxing-booth proprietors — A gypsy duel with cocoanut balls. 

DURING the period when I was working 
for Jimmy Jennings at his " covering 
the spot " stall I had lots of spare time 
on my hands, for of course we only occupied our 
pitches for comparatively short intervals of an 
evening, and then only on certain days of the 
week, Saturday being always one. 

This leisure I utilised mostly in practising 
conjuring tricks, and in card manipulation. In the 
beginning I used to use old tram and omnibus 
tickets for the latter purpose, and found them 
very useful, for being much smaller than ordinary 
playing cards they were of course more easily 
palmed or otherwise manipulated, while at the 
same time they afforded excellent practice to a 
comparative tyro, as I then was. 

I may mention that at that time I rarely 

handled the cards themselves, and still more 

rarely played a card game. Nor do I now, at 

least not for money ; and the same rule holds 

c 17 



18 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

good, I have observed, with most professional 
conjurors and card-manipulators. 

The reason of this self-denying ordinance is, of 
course, not very far to seek. Take my own case 
for example ! If I should play cards for money, 
and win, although I have as much right to win as 
any other player taking part in the game, there is 
alwa}fs the risk that the others — even one's own 
friends — may think I have utilised my professional 
skill in order to take an unfair advantage of them ; 
in other words that I have cheated them. While 
should I lose, people are apt to say : " Well, 
Carlton is not so smart with the pasteboards as we 
thought him to be, after all ; the man's a bit of 
a mug." So that's why I very rarely play. 

It was, too, during my term of " apprentice- 
ship " with Jimmy, if I may so term it, that I 
first became interested in the great Maskelyne and 
Cooke box trick. These two gentlemen were 
showing, at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, a trick 
which consisted in a man being corded up in a 
locked box, and from which he freed himself in a 
few seconds. 

At each performance they offered £500 to 
anyone who could make a similar box, and 
successfully duplicate the trick. Two young men, 
clever mechanics they were, set to work, and 
eventually succeeded in making a box and per- 
forming the trick. I, being at the time a lithe and 
supple youth, was placed inside the box at the 
trial exhibition, and I released myself and 
appeared outside in three seconds. 

I should add that after I was placed in the box, 
it was locked, and then enveloped completely in a 
canvas cover, which was sealed and corded, as 
Messrs. Maskelyne and Cooke had stipulated. 
Notwithstanding this they declined to pay the 



I POSE AS A SHOWMAN 19 

promised £500, and the case came into the Queen's 
r>ench, and was eventually carried through the 
Court of Appeal right up to the House 4 of Lords. 

Messrs. Maskclyne and Cooke lost, and the two 
young men who had made the box got their £500, 
but of course I received none of the money. 
Nevertheless, I have mentioned the incident 
because it was indirectly the cause of my getting 
my first real boost up in my present profession. 
But of this more anon. 

Suffice it for the present to say that I had learnt 
all there was to know about that particular box 
trick. And not only that. I had set to work on 
my own initiative, without saying a word to 
anyone, and had made a similar trick box of my 
own, and in regard to which, moreover, being a 
youth of an experimental and inventive turn of 
mind, I had introduced one or two notable 
improvements ; or at least so I regarded them, 
and so, as a matter of fact, they eventually turned 
out. The reason for my mentioning this here will 
appear presently. 

On arriving at Tonbridge Fair Ground I became 
acquainted with a big gypsy named Brown, a 
typical Romany lad, or diddyki, as these people 
call themselves in their own dialect. He had a 
booth in which he was giving a show with a so- 
called " Flying Lady." She had been working at 
other fairs with him on the basis of half the 
takings, but at Tonbridge, greatly to Brown's 
disgust and disappointment, she failed to put in an 
appearance. The flying lady had in fact flown — 
away. 

In this dilemma Brown suggested that I should 
take her place for a week, which I did, and this 
resulted eventually in my performing my box 
trick at his booth. I had, I should state, re- 



20 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

hearsed the trick many times with a performer 
who called himself " Lieutenant Doctor Lynn, 
Junior," and who was a son of the one-time famous 
conjuror, Dr. Lynn. He it was who presented 
the trick for the two young men mentioned 
above who successfully sued Messrs. Maskelyne 
and Cooke. I was, therefore, absolutely part 
perfect in the act, and with the improvements I 
had made in my box I felt confident that I could 
hold my own with anybody in the business. 

At Faversham Fair Ground, to which we went 
from Tonbridge, I arranged with Brown to share 
his booth, he paying the rent for the ground, or 
the " tobee " as the fair folk call it, each to have 
half the takings. I was also to help him by 
pattering outside the show, and performing card- 
tricks, in order to attract the people, and by inter- 
esting them induce them to come inside : in 
showman's parlance " doing a slang to get a 
pitch." This arrangement was certainly a by no 
means unfavourable one for him, but he was not 
satisfied, as I shall have occasion to show here- 
after. 

Prior to our opening at Faversham I had cut 
some paper letters, and stuck them on a big, 
bright ultramarine blue banner, advertising my 
show as follows : 

CARLTON PHILPS 

in a facsimile of the famous 

Box Trick 

that won £500 in the House of Lords. 

This act went with a rush from first to last, and 
this was where I began to make money. It was 
a novel experience to me, and need I say it was as 




CARLTON — ON 



I POSE AS A SHOWMAN 21 

pleasant as it was novel. I was now able to send 
home a substantial sum each week to my mother 
and sisters, put by a little against a rainy day, 
and still have enough left over for my personal 
needs, which, however, I may add, were at that 
time of quite modest dimensions. 

To go back a little, I should explain that the 
roundabout people are the kings, so to speak, of 
the fair grounds ; and it is these usually who 
arrange for the pitches in advance, and pay the 
" dinari for the tobee " (i.e. money for the 
ground) in a lump sum to whoever owns the land, 
afterwards sub-letting it to the smaller showmen, 
the amount of the rent paid by these latter vary- 
ing with the size and position of their individual 
pitches. The name of the roundabout firm who 
rented the fair grounds at Tonbridge and Faver- 
sham was Messrs. Hastings and Wayman, now well- 
known travelling showmen in Wales. 

I got very friendly both with Mr. Hastings and 
Mr. Wayman. Though wealthy men as show folk 
go, and very smart at a deal, they were poor 
scholars, and I used to assist them in making up 
their accounts. I also, at their request, acted as 
their advance agent in so far as I used to go on 
ahead and arrange for the renting of the tobee. 

In this way I got my first insight into the life of 
the road as led by the Romany folk. It was, I 
have no hesitation in saying, the happiest time 
of my life. When on the move I lived in one of 
their waggons — caravans ordinary people call 
them, but to the gypsies they are always waggons 
— and to travel slowly along through the beautiful 
English country lanes behind the sleek, well-fed 
horses, was a revelation in restfulness to a bred 
and born Cockney lad like myself. 

We almost lived on the country. Our dogs 



22 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

brought us in rabbits and to spare. Even 
pheasants for the pot were not lacking. For this 
I make neither apology nor excuse. The true 
gypsy regards all fur and feather that runs or 
flies as his by divine right, and the word " poach- 
ing " has for him literally no significance whatever. 
When we pulled up at set of sun by some wayside 
brook the odour of cooking was always quickly 
wafted on the breeze — and such cooking ! 

It was on one of these journeys that I first 
tasted that famous Romany dainty, a hedgehog 
rolled whole in clay, and baked in the hot ashes. 
Believe me it is a dish fit for a king ; tasty, 
succulent, juicy, and possessing a delicious flavour 
— gamy but not too gamy — that is all its own. 
We also used to cook birds, and even rump 
steaks, after the same fashion, and very tooth- 
some I found them. Of course care must be taken 
to select the right kind of clay for an envelope, 
and it is also advisable to pick out the worms from 
it before using it. 

Heaven knows how long I might have con- 
tinued leading this kind of life had it not been for 
an untoward incident that happened later on, and 
to which I shall refer presently. I might have even 
continued the vagrant gypsy existence that fitted 
in so well with my tastes and inclinations, and 
become in time almost one of themselves. As it 
was, after only a comparatively short spell of it, 
I was becoming half a Romany, using their 
dialect, and falling by degrees, and almost 
unconsciously, into their ways of thought and 
methods of expression. 

However, as I have already said, my career 
as an amateur gypsy was destined to be cut 
short sooner than I had bargained for. I was, of 
course, never really one of themselves. All the 



I POSE AS A SHOWMAN 23 

gypsy show folk arc related to one another more 
or less, either by marriage or descent, and although 
they will show friendship to an outsider on 
occasion, they never fully trust any such, or 
admit them to a real, close intimacy. My trouble 
with them began, as so many other troubles begin, 
over money matters. 

My show, as I have said, was unusually success- 
ful, and for some time it had been borne in 
upon me that I was not getting my fair share of 
the takings. I mentioned my suspicions — they 
were in fact much more than mere suspicions — 
to Mr. Wayman, and he was very much upset and 
annoyed about it. At the same time he warned 
me that it would be as well to avoid if possible 
having any open quarrel with Brown, who had the 
reputation of being a violent man, and who would 
be certain, if trouble arose between us, to have all 
the other gypsies on his side irrespective of the 
rights or wrongs of the matter in dispute. 

This of course was all very well in its way, and I 
quite recognised how excellent was his advice, and 
how kind and well-meaning was the man himself 
in giving it. But then, on the other hand, I did not 
see why I should go on being cheated, nor did I 
intend to, if I could help it. So one day between 
the shows I quietly slipped off up to London, 
without saying a word to anybody, and bought 
an automatic pocket register ; one of those tiny 
affairs, not much bigger than a watch, which you 
can hold behind you, or keep hidden in your 
pocket if need be, and tick off with one hand 
the number of people passing in or out of the 
building. 

That night when we came to settle up, I found, 
as I had surmised, that Brown was cheating me. 
His count of the number of patrons visiting my 



24 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

show was somewhere about fifty below that 
registered by my machine ; and which, by the 
way, he did not know I possessed. Nor did I 
enlighten him even now on this latter point, 
merely remarking that I thought he must be 
mistaken as to the number, for I had kept count, 
and I made it fifty more than he did, which, at a 
penny each for admission, and reckoning half the 
takings as mine, made my share 2s. id. more than 
he was going to pay me. 

1 Oh, that can't be," objected Brown. " I'm 
sure my figure is the correct one. Perhaps you 
counted the ' bluers. ' " 

In order that the reader may be able to appre- 
ciate the full significance of this remark, and also 
understand how little Brown thought, or affected 
to think, of my intelligence, I ought here to 
explain the meaning of the word " bluer " ; a 
term perfectly familiar to all the great host of 
peripatetic showmen, roundabout proprietors, 
owners of cocoanut shies, and the like, but 
unknown probably to the generality of people 
outside these professions. 

Literally, then, to " blue," in the Romany 
dialect, means to push or shove, and a bluer, 
therefore, means a pushful, forceful individual, 
one who shoves and elbows his way to the front. 

Bluers work on fair grounds in gangs of from 
four to six or eight. They hang about the out- 
skirts of the crowd that gathers round the show 
where, we will say, the fat lady is on exhibition, 
or the tattooed man ; and at the proper moment, 
that is to say when the showman has finished his 
harangue and is inviting all and sundry to " walk 
up — walk up — walk up," the bluers start to 
elbow their way to the front from the rear, pay 
their pennies with assumed eagerness, and enter 



I POSE AS A SHOWMAN 25 

the show. The crowd, once the lead is set, follows 
like a flock of sheep, and the trick is done. 

Afterwards the bluers spread themselves 
amongst the crowd outside again and discuss, of 
course in highly eulogistic terms, the wonders of 
the particular show they have just visited, before 
proceeding to another part of the fair ground, 
there to repeat their performance for the benefit 
of some other showman. Or they will give a lead 
at the cocoanut shies, where, being excellent 
throwers owing to long practice at the game, they 
invariably down the nuts, thereby encouraging 
others to try and do likewise. 

Bluers are paid a shilling a day by each of the 
showmen having stands at a fair, and manage to 
make a very decent living, following the shows 
round from place to place all over the country, 
and from year's end to year's end. 

Of course each bluer is furnished beforehand 
with a sufficient stock of pennies each day to pay 
for admission for himself to the various shows ; 
and, equally of course, these pennies have to be 
deducted from the gross total of the takings at the 
close of the day, and allowed for. 

The reader will be able to understand now, 
therefore, how exceedingly nettled and angry I 
was when Brown accused me of counting in the 
bluers ; because it was obvious that I knew by 
sight every one of these men, and that I was not 
going to count them in as ordinary members of the 
paying public, unless indeed I was trying to cheat 
him, a course which, needless to say, I neither 
intended nor desired. 

All this I explained to him, but he still per- 
sisted in saying that I was mistaken in my count ; 
so, bearing in mind the advice given me by my 
friend Mr. Wayman, I decided to let the matter 



26 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

drop just then, hoping that he would take the 
hint, and treat me fairly for the future. Instead, 
however, matters kept going from bad to worse. 
Every night he docked me in sums running in the 
aggregate into quite a lot of money, and I felt 
very sore about it. Besides, it was very unpleasant 
in other ways, for the matter was a continual 
bone of contention between us, leading to constant 
bickerings and quarrels. 

And I wanted no quarrels just then, either with 
Brown, or with any of the other gypsies. I had 
had quite enough to go on with already, if the 
truth must be told. Indeed, before I had been 
following the fairs a week I had fought no fewer 
than five pitched battles with the show folk, and 
their hangers-on the bluers, and others. This, 
however, was in a sense partly my own fault, and 
it was also partly due to my ignorance of the 
unwritten law that govern the working of the fair 
grounds. 

For example, it is the custom for everybody to 
help in the setting up and taking down of the 
various shows, roundabouts, cocoanut shies, and 
so on. The bluers, too, gave a hand in this work 
without extra remuneration, except that when a 
fair is finished they are given a lift on the waggons 
as far as the next town to which the shows are 
going. Now I, being ignorant of this custom, used 
to go off on my own somewhere as soon as I had 
finished putting up or taking down Brown's booth, 
thereby, of course, giving offence. The others 
thought I was trying to shirk my obligations to 
them, whereas nothing was further from my 
thoughts. I simply did not know. 

However, I had been used to taking my own 
part. Trust a Cockney lad for that ! So I was 
usually able to give a pretty good account of 



I POSE AS A SHOWMAN 27 

myself. Besides, I got plenty of practice in the 
fair grounds. When business was slack at our 
show, I used to go over to a boxing booth in 
another part of the ground that was kept by one 
Alf Ball, an ex-champion pugilist, and he put me 
up to many a pretty wrinkle. 

In return I used to help him get an audience 
by " doing a slang " for him, and would also, on 
occasion, put on the gloves outside his booth. 
This meant taking on all comers, and I fought 
many a hard bout on his account, for being tall 
and thin, in fact a typical light-weight, people 
used to pick on me. " I'll have 'em (the gloves) 
on wi' yon long fellow," a burly rustic would say, 
and smile confidently to himself in anticipation 
of an easy victory. 

As a matter of fact, however, I always won, 
although not exactly on my merits. What hap- 
pened usually was this. Alf would keep a watchful 
eye on our performance, and if my opponent 
turned out to be a bit of a bruiser, and " out for a 
scrap " as we used to say, then the rounds, 
instead of lasting the regulation three minutes, 
would be cut down to one minute, or even less. 
On the other hand, if I was getting the best of a 
round, then it would be made to last out to 
perhaps as long as five minutes, or until the chap 
was finally knocked out. 

There were other " tricks of the trade " too, all 
designed to make sure that the booth's champion 
won. For instance, ail the boxing-gloves looked 
alike ; but that was all. My pair, weighing 
perhaps fourteen ounces, were of solid leather. 
The pair lent to my opponent for the bout were 
padded with horsehair, and as soft as a couple 
of sofa cushions. With these " dud " gloves he 
could make little impression on me, while if I got 



28 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

one home with mine it was all over with the other 
fellow. " By gum, but that thin consumptive- 
looking chap can punch/' my discomfited opponent 
would remark, as he quitted the ring, a sadder and 
sorer man than when he entered it. 

I may add, however, that the gypsies, when 
fighting between themselves, seldom " fight fair," 
as the term is understood amongst boxers. They 
" go for " one another with sticks, feet, hands, 
stones, anything. One favourite way of settling 
their differences is by what may be called a duel 
with cocoanut balls. 

Everybody nearly is familiar, of course, with 
these round, hard wooden balls, and the gypsy 
keepers of the cocoanut shies are naturally adepts 
at throwing them. When two of them fall out, 
and agree to fight after this fashion, two heaps of 
six or eight balls are placed about twenty yards 
apart. The " duellists " then stand back to back 
midway between the two heaps, and at the word 
" go " from their seconds each makes a quick dash 
for the heap facing him, gathers up the balls, and 
then, turning about, he races towards his opponent, 
throwing one or more balls as he advances. 

They do not, however, as a rule advance 
directly towards one another, but zigzag and 
circle about, wary as two panthers, and every now 
and again one or the other of them will let fly a 
ball with unerring aim, which the other has to 
dodge, or run the risk of being put out of action, 
for a blow from one of these missiles, when thrown 
by a gypsy, is extremely apt to be a knock-out 
one. 

I once indeed saw a man's arm broken in one 
such encounter, and another gypsy had his skull 
fractured. The interest of the spectators of these 
curious duels increases- as ball after ball is disposed 



I POSE AS A SHOWMAN 29 

of, and reaches fever-heat when each combatant 
has thrown all his balls but one, without any 
decisive result being attained ; for obviously the 
holder of the last ball, if he is not disabled, has his 
opponent practically at his mercy. The other can 
only run, circle, and dodge, in order to try and 
evade for as long as possible the blow he knows 
must come sooner or later. 



' 



- 






jj \ 






I 






CHAPTER III 

WITH THE GYPSIES 

I start a show of my own — Gypsy Brown plays me a dirty trick — 
The hunchback in the box — Bank Holiday at Cheriton Fair 
— I plan to circumvent Gypsy Brown — And succeed only too 
well — The crowd wrecks Brown's booth — Pandemonium in 
the fair ground — The gypsies attack my show — The fate 
of a peace-maker — My fight with Gypsy Brown — ^10 to ^i 
on my opponent and no takers — A knock-out blow — Gypsy 
Brown vows revenge — My life in danger — How I outwitted 
the gypsies — The last of my experiences as a fair-ground 
showman. 

MEANWHILE all this time Brown was 
steadily robbing me. Again I confided 
in my friend Mr. Wayman, telling him 
that I had by this time saved enough money to 
buy a tent (but not a proper showman's booth) 
and asking his advice as to starting on my own. 
He thought it would be a good idea, but again 
took occasion to warn me against incurring the 
enmity of Brown, and his many friends and 
relations. 

At this time we were performing at Sheerness 
on an open space in front of the beach, and having 
made up my mind to act on Mr. Wayman's advice 
and chance it, I went to Messrs. Gasson & Sons of 
Rye, the big military tent-makers, and bought 
from them a fairly large second-hand army 
marquee, that I considered would about answer 
my purpose, at all events for the time being. 
Then, after our last show at Sheerness, having 
quite decided to sever all connection with Brown 
for the future, I made shift to get my box away 

30 



WITH THE GYPSIES 31 

from his keeping ; but unfortunately he was able 
to retain possession of my banner, and my other 
" outside props." 

Our next destination after Sheerness was 
Cheriton, outside Folkestone, where there was a 
big volunteer camp. We arrived here on an 
August Bank Holiday, which, I should explain, is 
the showman's day of days. All was bustle and 
animation. I could not, I reflected, have chosen a 
more auspicious occasion for my first venture as an 
independent showman. 

Helped by the bluers, and a few others, I soon 
ran up my marquee, and Mr. Wayman very 
kindly lent me a lorry for an outside platform. 
I had previously engaged a big ex-army man 
named Sam Cliff as doorman, and to take the 
money, etc. He was a fine-built chap, weighing 
over fourteen stone, and by his own account a bit 
of a bruiser. I had also provided myself with 
another banner, a duplicate of the first one 
I had made, and which was now in Brown's 
possession. 

" Let him keep it," I kept saying to myself. 
" Much good may it do him ! He'll never dare to 
use it." 

But to my disgust and disappointment this is 
precisely what he did do. Our two shows, 
situated almost directly opposite one another, 
each flaunted an almost identical banner pro- 
claiming to all and sundry that Carlton Philps 
would give a performance of the famous box 
trick that won £500 in the House of Lords. 

This was, of course, intolerable, and I promptly 
went over to Mr. W'ayman and lodged a com- 
plaint. Whilst I was talking to him a little 
hunchback chap came over to where we were, and 
asked : 



32 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

" Are you Mr. Carlton Philps ? " 

" Yes," I said, " that's me. What do you 
want ? " 

" Well, sir," he answered, " I hope you won't 
be offended, but Mr. Brown has engaged me to do 
a box trick. He fetched me down from London 
to do it, and now I find that he is using your 
banner for my trick." 

" Oh," I said, affecting an indifference I was 
far from feeling, " that's all right. Of course 
there are box tricks and box tricks. Now what 
sort of a one is yours, may I ask ? " 

The hunchback gave me a description of it, 
from which I gathered that his was a very 
ordinary show indeed, and far inferior to mine ; 
his box being about four times as big as mine was, 
and minus the canvas cover. Also his trick was 
worked by means of a trap-door, whereas mine 
was independent of any such adjunct. So, after 
turning the matter over in my mind for a little 
while, I told him it was all right, and he was to get 
on with his trick. 

Well, by the time the fair ground opened, there 
were I should think between fifteen and twenty 
thousand people present. The weather was 
lovely, the crowd was in excellent spirits, and 
it looked as if we had a record day in front 
of us. 

Brown was ready before me, and he gave a 
first show under my banner. " This will never 
do," I thought. " I've got to queer him right 
here now, or else he'll queer me." 

So, after thinking hard for a second or 
two, I called to Cliff, and told him to come up 
outside on the lorry with me, and to bring my 
box, together with the canvas cover and the 
rope. 



WITH THE GYPSIES 33 

" Now/' I said, addressing the crowd, " I want 
some of you gentlemen to step up here on the 
platform, put me inside this box after you have 
examined it, lock it and keep the key, and then 
put on the canvas cover and cord it up as tightly 
and securely as you can. Then, when you have 
done all this, I want you to carry the box, with 
me in it, inside the tent, and I will escape from it 
inside of ten seconds. Finally I will guarantee 
that, as regards this my first performance here, 
everybody shall get their money back which they 
have paid for admittance/' 

" Hurrah ! " cried the crowd, and before you 
could say " Jack Robinson " half a dozen sailors 
had scrambled up on the lorry, and proceeded to 
carry out my instructions as to locking me in the 
box, and roping it up. Afterwards they carried me 
inside, followed by the rest of the crowd, and I 
escaped from it, as I had said I would, within the 
time stipulated. 

Then I made them another speech, explaining 
to them that I was the one and only original 
Carlton Philps, and showing them my photograph 
and papers to prove it. " Now/' I concluded, 
" I promised that you should all have your money 
back, and so you shall — but on one condition. 
I want each one of you to take the penny my 
doorkeeper will give you, and go over to the 
opposition show and see fair play. I ask you to 
rope the other man up in the same way as you 
roped me, using the same precautions. Then see 
whether he will be able to get out as I have 
done/' 

" Hurrah ! " shouted the crowd once more. And 
off they went, sailors and all, their pennies 
clutched tight in their hands, making a bee-line 
for Brown's booth. Then I began to get fright- 



34 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

ened. Cliff, too, looked serious. But, as I pointed 
out to him, it was no good worrying ourselves. 
What had to be, must be. Our business now was 
with our own show. 

By this time the fair was in full swing. The 
roundabouts were going merrily, the steam organs 
were at full blast, and I had just begun to gather 
another crowd round me when I suddenly noticed 
the central pole of Brown's booth began to wobble 
to and fro in a most alarming manner. I could 
plainly hear, too, angry shouts, and cries of 
derision, coming from the interior, and almost 
immediately the entire canvas edifice collapsed 

" Good Lord ! That's done it ! " cried Cliff. 
" Now we're in for it. The gypsies will never 
forget or forgive us for this day's work." 

I began to think the same, for I quite realised 
what had happened. The sailors had roped the 
hunchback in the box, and he had been unable to 
get out. In revenge the crowd, led by the sailors, 
had wrecked the show. 

However, I reflected, this was primarily Brown's 
concern, not mine, and I went on with my pre- 
parations for my own show. My marquee was 
about half full of people, and more swarming 
in every minute, when the expected happened. 
Brown, his huge face crimson with anger, and 
bellowing like a bull, came charging across from 
the ruins of his booth, followed by a score or 
so members of his tribe, all of them obviously 
bent on mischief. 

Nor did they come unarmed. Some carried iron 
tent pegs, others long cudgels, and one big, brawny 
ruffian swung aloft a heavy iron-shod oak 
capstan bar, used in the roundabout business. 
I also noticed, and this caused me most mis- 



WITH THE GYPSIES 35 

giving, that several had round wooden balls taken 
from the cocoanut-shy boxes. These are very 
dangerous missiles indeed in the hand of the 
gypsies, for they can throw them, owing to long 
practice, as straight as a rifle-shot. Many a time 
had I seen men stretched senseless by a well- 
directed shot from one of them, as narrated in the 
previous chapter, and I had no wish to repeat the 
experiment in my own person. 

However, there was neither time nor oppor- 
tunity to do much thinking. Calling to Cliff to 
follow me, I scrambled on the lorry, and with 
a loaded revolver in one hand, which was ordi- 
narily used in my show business, and a heavy 
stake hammer in the other, I awaited the onset 
of the gypsies. These surged round my lorry, 
a veritable sea of savage humanity, shouting 
curses and execrations, and swearing that they 
would have my life. 

Sticking my revolver in my belt, I swung the 
heavy hammer aloft, and threatened to dash out 
the brains of the first man who tried to climb up 
on the lorry. This made them pause. Not that 
they were not plucky. There was, I doubt not, 
many a brave lad amongst them. But none was 
so brave or so foolhardy as to wish to court 
certain death. 

By this time pandemonium reigned in the fair 
ground. All the shows emptied, the roundabouts 
stopped, the cocoanut shies were deserted, and 
everybody, showmen and public alike, came 
surging round my tent. At this moment Sam 
Cliff, first throwing away a wooden stake he had 
armed himself with, very pluckily leapt down 
amongst the gypsies, and tried to parley with 
their leader. But hardly had he uttered two words, 
when Brown, mad with rage, rushed at him and 



36 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

knocked him senseless with a terrific blow in 
the face. 

Poor Cliff was not expecting this. In fact he 
was purposely holding his hands down by his sides 
at the time to show that his intentions were 
peaceful. But Brown seemed to think he had 
done a very clever and plucky thing in " outing " 
him for the time being, and elated by his success, 
he came straight for my lorry, and made as if to 
climb up on it. I raised my hammer aloft, and in 
my temper I should most certainly have used it. 
But the crowd, fearing a tragedy, pulled him 
back. 

Meanwhile Messrs. Hastings and Wayman, the 
managers, were talking to the other gypsies, 
and trying to pacify them, pointing out to 
them that they were wasting the best hours 
of the best day of the year ; that while they 
were quarrelling, money was being turned away, 
and that people were even now commencing to 
leave the fair ground, fearing a riot. " Yes, 
and as for the others," put in Mr. Hastings, 
addressing Brown and me, "they're mostly climb- 
ing on the roundabouts and tents, and damaging 
my property. Let's to business, before it is too 
late." 

By this time I began to see that there was only 
one way out of it. " I'll fight Brown now," I 
cried, " if the crowd will make a ring, and see to it 
that I get fair play." 

" We'll see to that, never fear," yelled the 
crowd ; and in a few seconds a big ring was 
formed, and Brown, taking his place in the centre 
of it, stripped himself to the waist. His huge 
hairy chest heaved with excitement, and I noted, 
not without inward misgiving, his powerful biceps, 
Iris brawny bulMike neck, and the closely 



WITH THE GYPSIES 37 

cropped, bullet-like head of the fighter by instinct 
and profession. 

When I came to strip in my turn, a great roar 
of laughter went up from the multitude, and no 
wonder. I was lean and lanky, and my skin, by 
contrast with his, appeared soft as velvet, and in 
colour and sheen not unlike to old ivory. " The 
lad's beat before he begins/' said one man in the 
forefront of the crowd, and who looked like a 
professional pugilist ; " I'll lay £10 to £i on the 
big 'un," and he looked round inquiringly. But 
alas ! in all that crowd there were no takers. 
I don't blame them. 

Directly I stepped into the ring Brown made 
a rush at me, his great arms whirling aloft 
like the sails of a windmill. I stopped him with 
a straight left on the nose, and down he went. 
He scrambled to his feet, and came for me 
again, bellowing with rage. This time I caught 
him in the eye with my right, more by luck than 
by judgment, and he tripped and fell over a tuft 
of grass. 

Now in a rough-and-tumble fight such as this 
was the strict rules of the prize ring are, it is well 
understood, not exactly enforced. You may not 
kick of course, and you may not hit a man when 
he is completely down, and that is about all. 
Everything else almost is considered fair, or at all 
events legitimate. So when Brown, having par- 
tially recovered himself, raised himself on one 
knee, I considered that my turn had come, and 
making a dive at him, and stooping down myself, 
I upper-cut him under the chin, and down he went 
again flat on his back. 

Moreover, greatly to my relief, this time he 
elected to stay down. He wasn't knocked out by 
any means, but he had had enough. The other 



38 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

gypsies picked him up, and took him away. The 
crowd dispersed. The roundabouts were re- 
started, the shows reopened, and all the fun of the 
fair was soon in full swing once more. Only 
Brown's one-time beautiful booth remained lying 
where it had fallen, a tangled heap of rent canvas 
and broken cordage. Brown himself spent the 
rest of the day presiding at a cocoanut-shy, and 
nursing a bad black eye. 

Every now and again he would turn and shoot 
a malevolent look in my direction, nor did it need 
this to tell me that my trouble with him was only 
now beginning. All day long, too, the other 
gypsies kept coming up to my show in order to 
tell me of what was in store for me later. 
" Brown/' they said, " swears he'll kill you 
to-night, and he's a man of his word." " Tell 
Brown," I retorted, showing them my revolver 
loaded in all six chambers with ball cartridge, 
" that I'll certainly shoot dead any man I catch 
prowling round my marquee after the fair closes 
down." 

This, I may add, was a bit of sheer bluff, 
designed to throw them off the scent. I used to 
sleep in my marquee, there was nowhere else to 
sleep in fact, and I knew full well that I could not 
keep awake all the night long, and that once 
asleep it would be easy for one of them to creep 
under the canvas and brain me with a stake 
hammer. True, Cliff and I might have taken it in 
turns to keep awake and on guard, one watching 
while the other slept ; but even this, I reflected, 
would only be postponing the evil day, or rather 
night. I knew too well the fierce, vindictive 
nature of the gypsies, to imagine for one moment 
that Brown and his tribe were going to forgo 
their revenge altogether. 



WITH THE GYPSIES 39 

No ! I had another plan worked out in my 
mind, and soon after it was dark I proceeded to 
put it into execution, with the help of Mr. Wayman 
in whom I had confided. 

He had slipped off to the station at my 
request, and had ascertained that a fast train 
left for London at 10.20 p.m. The fair ground 
closed at n p.m. Shortly before ten o'clock 
struck a man with a barrow, whom I had en- 
gaged beforehand, took his position, silently and 
without being observed, in a lane at the back 
of my tent. 

Then I started the usual patter on the lorry 
outside in order to collect an audience. I could 
see that the gypsies were watching me. Possibly 
they had some suspicion of my intentions. But 
anyhow I outwitted them. 

We got the crowd inside all right, but these 
people did not get their money back, nor did they 
see the show ; for, instead of giving it, Cliff and I 
made some excuse to the audience for a brief 
delay, as we put it, and quietly slipped away out 
under the tent at the back, bearing with us my 
box, which I had already packed with our joint 
personal belongings. To hoist it on to the barrow 
was the work of a moment. Then we trundled it off 
to the station. We had, of course, to leave the 
marquee behind us, but as Mr. Wayman had 
promised me to look after it, and sell it for me as 
soon as he got a fair offer for it, this did not 
trouble me much. 

As luck would have it, the train was on time. 
And as it steamed out of the station, bearing our 
two selves with it, I was just in time to wave my 
hand derisively at Brown and a lot of the other 
gypsies, who, having found out too late the trick 
I had served them, came charging pell-mell up the 



40 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

lane, cursing and shouting, with the object of 
trying to cut off our retreat. 

So ended my first, last, and only experience as a 
fair-ground showman. I never went back to the 
business again ; nor, if the truth be told, had I ever 
the least desire to do so. 



CHAPTER IV 

THE TRICK THAT FAILED 

Back in London — At the Westminster Aquarium — " The Pro.'s 
Casual Ward " — Zaeo's Maze — "Oriental beauties from the 
Far East-End of London" — " Fake " side-shows — A "fast- 
ing lady's " prodigious appetite — A lively subject for a 
coffin — I sell conjuring tricks to visitors — " Uncle " Ritchie 
— An audience of one — Annie Luker, the champion lady 
high diver — I find myself barred from the Aquarium — The 
mysterious voice in the maze — Mr. Ritchie investigates — 
And Mr. Wieland scores — Penny-gaffing in London — Work- 
ing the shops — Sham hypnotism — How to eat coal and 
candles — And drink paraffin oil — The box trick again — 
Venice in Newcastle — I offer a £1000 prize — The trick that 
failed — My first engagement in a regular " hall " — My 
absent-minded partner. 

RETURNING to London after my exciting 
experiences at Cheriton Fair Ground, I 
>. got into rather low water financially, 
and was glad to accept an engagement at thirty 
shillings a week at the Royal Aquarium, West- 
minster. 

This famous place of amusement used to be 
known irreverently in the profession as the 
" Pro.'s Casual Ward," on account of the very 
meagre salaries ruling there. At the time I went 
there it was the custom of the management to pay 
in cash those artistes who were in receipt of any- 
thing under £2 a week. Those drawing over that 
amount were paid by cheque, which they had to 
cross the road to the bank to cash. Very few 
crossed the road. 

My engagement, however, was not with the 
Aquarium people direct, but with Mr. Harry 

41 



42 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

Wieland, the husband of Zaeo, a once famous 
gymnast. She was the lady who used to be shot 
out of a catapult, and perform other sensational 
feats in mid-air, and concerning whose perform- 
ance, or rather, to be strictly accurate, the poster 
advertising it, which was the first poster to appear 
on the hoardings of a lady in tights, so tremendous 
a controversy raged in the public Press and 
elsewhere during the spring and summer of 
1890. 

At the time I went to the Aquarium, however, 
Zaeo had ceased to perform as a gymnast, and was 
engaged in running a profitable side-show known 
as " Zaeo's Maze/' and which consisted mainly of 
a lot of mirrors arranged at different angles. There 
was also run in conjunction with the maze what 
we called a Turkish Harem, the forerunner of the 
similar type of exhibition afterwards made popular 
by the proprietors of " Constantinople in London " 
at Olympia. 

My job was to act as doorman and attendant at 
this exhibition, and by my patter, etc., to induce 
the public to enter. " Pass in, ladies and gentle- 
men ! " I would cry. " Pass in and see the 
wondrous hall of mirrors, and the bevy of dark- 
eyed Oriental beauties from the Far, Far East — 
End of London. " 

This sort of thing served to put the crowd in a 
good humour, and in they would troop. The 
maze was a sufficiently puzzling place to be in, 
owing to the arrangement of the mirrors, fifty- 
two in number. But by swinging a certain double 
one round I was able, when I deemed it expedient 
to do so, to close the exit altogether, so that it was 
impossible for anybody inside to get out until I 
chose to let them. Many a sixpence and shilling 
used I to receive for showing bewildered wanderers 



THE TRICK THAT FAILED 43 

round and round, how to escape from the trap I 
myself had set for them. 

Also, visitors were not permitted to take sticks 
or umbrellas inside the maze, for fear they might 
poke the mirrors. I took charge of these for 
them, and the fees I received from this source 
still further swelled my income. It needed some 
swelling, I may add, to transform it into a living 
wage, for I only got thirty shillings a week from 
Mr. Wieland, and in return for this sum, in 
addition to all my other work, I had to clean the 
mirrors, so it will be readily apparent that my job 
was no sinecure. 

Most of the Aquarium side-shows at this time 
were more or less of the " fake " variety. I re- 
member, for instance, a " fasting lady " who came 
there. She was of quite Amazonian proportions 
when she first put in an appearance, but when she 
left she was as thin as a lath. Afterwards, how- 
ever, I helped to clear out the room she had 
occupied during her forty days' — I think it was — 
" fast." 

Then the mystery, such as it was, was solved. 
We found sufficient horsehair padding to stuff a 
good-sized sofa, and then leave enough over for a 
couple of armchairs. There were also a lot of 
thin pieces of old iron, weighing in the aggregate 
pretty nearly half a hundredweight, and these 
she had evidently used for the purpose of con- 
cealing about her person under her clothes, when 
she was weighed prior to beginning her " fast." 
Furthermore, in a certain dark corner was a huge 
pile of empty tins, that had once contained 
" bully " beef, salmon, sardines, chicken, veget- 
ables of almost all sorts, baked beans, and various 
other toothsome comestibles. I came to the 
conclusion there and then that I would not have 



44 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

minded " fasting " for forty days on the same 
diet as did that lady. 

Another " fake " show was performed by a girl 
who was supposed to be in a trance in her coffin. 
She was called " The Sleeping Beauty." As a 
matter of fact she was not sleeping, nor was she 
beautiful. The coffin in which she reposed was 
tilted at an angle, and muslin drapery was hung 
over it. Through this she was able to see when a 
visitor, or visitors, were ushered into the room, 
and she would then go " off " into her trance. 
At all other times she was as lively as a kitten. 

Quite near the maze was another side-show 
run by a conjuror calling himself Professor Field. 
This was a genuine show so far as it went, 
although Field, in my estimation at all events, 
was not much of a conjuror. His business con- 
sisted in performing certain tricks, and afterwards 
selling the " secret " of them, together with the 
simple apparatus necessary to perform them, to 
anyone who was prepared to pay him half-a-guinea 
for the same. 

Now as it happened, soon after I came there, 
this gentleman joined partnership with another 
conjuror named Carlton, the show being run under 
the title of Field, Carlton & Co. This gave me an 
idea. If these people could give lessons in conjur- 
ing for money, I didn't see why I shouldn't do 
the same. 

So when I got a likely-looking visitor inside the 
maze I used to show him some tricks, and offer to 
sell them to him at half-a-crown apiece, at the 
same time pointing out to him that I was the one 
and only original Carlton, and that the same 
tricks sold by the Field & Carlton firm outside — 
which I was careful to add was not connected with 
me — would cost him half-a-guinea each. I did a 



THE TRICK THAT FAILED 45 

fairly lucrative business, and in a little while my 
total earnings, including the standing thirty 
shillings weekly paid me by Mr. Wieland, averaged 
£7 or £8 a week. 

But of course it was only a matter of time before 
Messrs. Field & Carlton got to know that I was 
undercutting them ; and, not unnaturally, they 
were very angry about it. Off they went to 
" Uncle " Josiah Ritchie, the Aquarium manager, 
and lodged a complaint, pointing out that they 
paid a big rent for their pitch, and that all the 
while I, who paid nothing whatever, was stealing 
their business. 

The result was that I was had up on the carpet, 
and somewhat severely reprimanded, being made 
to promise not to sell any more tricks. As some 
sort of a set-off against this, however, Mr. Ritchie 
gave me the job to go up on the central stage and 
" announce " Miss Annie Luker, a young lady who 
used to do a sensational dive from the roof of the 
Aquarium into a tank sunk in the floor. 

But to this arrangement, after a little while, 
Mr. Wieland objected. He said that he paid me 
to look after his wife's side-show, and that while 
I was up on the central stage pattering for Annie 
Luker I was neglecting his interests. This was of 
course true, for obviously I could not be in two 
places at once ; but it struck me as being primarily 
a matter for adjustment between Ritchie and 
Wieland, and I left it to them to settle. 

The result of this arrangement was that what 
happened to me was something like what happened 
to the earthenware pot in the fable when it came 
into collision with the two iron pots. After a 
particularly busy Bank Holiday, when I did my 
best to divide my allegiance between Wieland and 
Zaeo on the one hand, and Ritchie and Annie 



46 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

Luker on the other, I lost my job. I didn't get 
any notice either. When I presented myself at the 
stage entrance to the Aquarium next morning as 
usual, I was told by the doorkeeper there that he 
had orders not to admit me. 

" Uncle " Ritchie, by the way, was something 
of an autocrat in his dealings with the artistes, 
and his other employees ; and especially was he 
keen on seeing that he got his money's worth out 
of them. I remember that while I was at the 
Aquarium, the first turn there used to be a man 
named Willis, who was also a conjuror. He had 
to appear three times each day, an hour's turn, 
for thirty shillings a week, and his first turn was 
from 10 to ii a.m., when the place opened, and 
when as a rule there were very few of the general 
public present. 

Nevertheless Mr. Ritchie always insisted on his 
giving his full hour's show, even although it was 
to a beggarly array of empty benches, and he even 
used to make a practice of seating himself in front 
of the conjuror and ticking off each item on his 
programme in order to be sure that the unhappy 
man missed no single one of his tricks ; and this, 
too, on wet mornings, or off days, when possibly 
he (Ritchie) was the sole " audience." A more 
irritating or depressing experience for a performer 
than this, I should imagine, it would be impossible 
to conceive. 

Occasionally though " Uncle " met his match. 
For instance, he used to be fond of prowling about 
the building at the times when it was supposed 
to be closed to the public, in order to see if he 
could find anything amiss ; and on one of these 
occasions he heard, or rather he thought he heard, 
human voices proceeding from the interior of 
the maze. 



THE TRICK THAT FAILED 47 

This, of course, was strictly against all rules and 
regulations, for the interior of the side-show was 
at such times in pitch darkness. Mr. Ritchie was 
on the alert immediately. 

" Send for Mr. Wieland," he commanded. 

" There's somebody inside your maze," he said 
when that gentleman presently appeared on the 
scene in obedience to his summons. 

" Nonsense ! " was the reply. " How can there 
be anybody in there ? I locked the maze up 
myself at closing time, and nobody has had 
possession of the key since.' ' 

" Well," persisted Mr. Ritchie, "I'll swear I 
heard voices there anyhow, and I'm going to 
search the place." 

This he started to do, and as a preliminary, 
directly he got inside, he struck a match. 

" Here ! None of that, Mr. Ritchie, if you 
please," cried Wieland. " To strike a light in 
there is against your own orders. Besides, if you 
burn my show down, what redress have I got ? " 

Ritchie, although inwardly fuming with rage, 
had to recognise the reasonableness of this, and he 
contented himself with groping about in the dark, 
and calling to the supposed intruder to come out. 

For a while there was no response. Then 
suddenly, from the innermost recesses of the maze, 
a hoarse voice shouted : " Get out yourself. Who 
are you ? " 

" I'm Mr. Josiah Ritchie, the manager of the 
Aquarium," answered " Uncle " wrathfully, " and 
I order you to come out immediately." 

" Oh, you go to hell," was the polite rejoinder ; 
whereat Ritchie came outside hurriedly, his face 
aflame with rage. 

" There you are," he cried, addressing Wieland. 
" I told you there was someone in there," and he 



48 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

called a messenger boy, and ordered him to fetch 
the Aquarium policeman and fireman. 

The lad started on his errand, but before he had 
gone many yards Wieland intervened, and called 
him back. 

At this Ritchie, not unnaturally, was more 
furious than ever. Stamping his foot, he asked 
how dare Wieland countermand his order ? 

" Well/' answered the latter quite suavely, 
" I called the boy back in your own interest. If 
the policeman and fireman are sent into the maze 
to lug out the individual you think is inside there, 
the only result will be to make you the laughing- 
stock of everybody about the place. " 

" Wait a minute, and I will show you/' he 
resumed. And going inside, Mr. Wieland presently 
returned with a big cage, in which was a red and 
green talking parrot. 

Tableau ! 

After I got the " sack " from the Aquarium I 
started on my own, working a conjuring show at 
various empty shops in and round London. That 
is to say, I would bargain for the temporary 
tenancy of any likely-looking shop in a main 
thoroughfare that chanced to be vacant, and 
having secured it, I would then proceed to give a 
more or less continuous performance, charging a 
penny for admission. 

My show consisted in a combination of conjuring 
and (alleged) hypnotism. With me as assistant 
I had a thin consumptive-looking youth, by name 
Freddie Andrews, whom I used to pretend to 
mesmerise, and he would then, on my commanding 
him to do so, drink paraffin oil with apparent gusto, 
eat with relish lighted candles and chunks of coal, 
and perform other similar antics. 

This part of the show, I may state at once, was 



THE TRICK THAT FAILED 49 

a fake. The upper part of the candle, which the lad 
ate, was carved out of an apple, and fitted with a 
wick made from an almond, and soaked in brandy 
to make it burn. The particular portion of the 
chunk of coal devoured by him was merely choco- 
late, deftly affixed to the genuine coal by myself 
at the moment of its being handed to him. While 
the paraffin oil was just plain water, poured into a 
bottle round the neck of which an oily paraffin 
rag was wrapped to make it smell when it was 
handed round amongst the audience for inspec- 
tion. 

Well, I was working a place on these lines in the 
Edgware Road one day towards the close of the 
year 1901, in the basement of a shop in which was a 
waxwork exhibition run by Mr. Louis Tussaud, 
when a man I knew slightly came to me in a great 
state of exhilaration and excitement. He had, he 
told me, secured a £35 a week contract for seven 
weeks for a conjuring and illusion turn at an 
entertainment called " Venice in Newcastle," and 
which was to open at the Drill Hall there shortly 
before Christmas. 

The bother of it was, he explained, that he knew 
nothing whatever of conjuring or illusions. He 
was under no illusion about that himself at all 
events. He had, he said, answered the advertise- 
ment in the Era newspaper at haphazard, setting 
forth his (purely imaginative) qualifications as 
an Ai wizard at great length, and very much 
to his surprise he had secured the contract. 
" Now," he concluded, " w r hat am I to do about 
it? " 

" Do about it ? " I exclaimed. " WTiy go 
whacks with me in the £35, and we'll fix up the 
turn between us." 

" But/' he objected, somewhat doubtfully, 

£ 



50 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

" the ordinary stock card tricks, etc., won't do, 
except perhaps as a stop-gap. We must have at 
least one really slap-up, first-class illusion.' ' 

" Right ho ! " I replied, struck by a sudden 
happy thought. " I know ! We'll run the great 
Maskelyne and Cooke box trick. I know all about 
how it is done, and what's more I've got at home 
a facsimile of the box that was used in the great 
£500 prize case." 

There was some further talk, but in the end we 
came to terms as I had suggested, share and share 
alike. 

Then, however, a new difficulty arose. Neither 
of us was able to muster the fares to Newcastle. 
Eventually, however, struck by another happy 
thought, I journeyed down to Ratcliffe Docks, 
and there I found a captain of a tramp coasting 
steamer, who happened to be bound for New- 
castle, and who agreed to take the pair of us for 
fifteen shillings. These we managed to scrape 
together, and in due course arrived at our 
destination, penniless but hopeful. Our sole 
luggage consisted of my precious box, in which 
was packed our wardrobes. 

The show was to open on December 21st, and 
I spent most of the intervening time coaching my 
partner in the part he was to take in our " Great 
£l,000 box trick." 

I had christened it this because it sounded well 
to offer a good, big, thumping reward. Those 
world-famous wizards, Maskelyne and Cooke, had 
offered £500 to anyone who guessed the secret of 
their trick. We doubled the prize, making the 
winning of it, however, conditional on the winner 
escaping from the box. 

My partner demurred somewhat to this ; but, 
as I pointed out to him, we might as well offer a 




CARLTON' AND ONE OF HIS SATELLITES AT THE THEATRICAL 
GARDEN PARTY, LONDON, I919 



I 



THE TRICK THAT FAILED 51 

reward of one thousand pounds as one thousand 
shillings. We hadn't, as a matter of fact, got 
one thousand pence. So what did it matter ? 
"Besides," I added consolingly, "no one in the 
audience will ever succeed in getting out of my 
box. The thing is impossible." 

This, I may add, was the literal truth ; for, in 
order to make assurance doubly sure, I had hit 
upon the expedient of having two keys made. 
One of these simply locked and unlocked the box, 
allowing the lid to be raised. The other one not 
only locked the box, but it also locked, at the same 
time, the mechanism actuating the secret panel by 
which I was enabled to get out of it. If the first 
key were used it was possible for anybody inside 
who knew of the existence of the panel, and how 
it was worked, to escape from the box's interior. 
But if the second key were used, the individual 
inside was as securely imprisoned as he would be 
if sealed up in a living tomb. 

Well, the eventful day came round at last. The 
town had been well " billed " beforehand, and the 
hall was packed with curious spectators, all of 
them eager to see for themselves the wonderful 
box trick, and try and unravel the mystery of it. 

We produced the box, and called up the usual 
volunteer committee of inspection, while I 
expatiated at length on our generous and unpre- 
cedented offer of " £1,000 in hard cash" to any 
lady or gentleman who succeeded in escaping from 
its interior. A good many, I may add, tried. 
But of course none succeeded. I saw to that. 

Following these preliminaries, the box was 
placed open on a table in the centre of the stage, 
and a threefold screen on legs was drawn round 
the back and two sides, leaving the front facing 
the audience exposed to view, and also allowing of 



52 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

a clear view underneath the table. This was so 
that I could get inside the box, and be corded up 
in it, in full view of the spectators, after which a 
curtain, falling only as low as the top of the table, 
was to be drawn across the front by my partner, 
who was to fire a pistol as a signal for me to 
emerge. 

This was literally all he had to do ; just 
draw the curtain tight, shutting the box from 
view, and then fire his pistol. But he didn't 
do it. He fired the pistol all right, it is true, but 
in his flurry and excitement he forgot to draw the 
curtain. 

As a result I popped up out of the box in full 
view of the audience, and every man, woman, and 
child in the building saw at a glance exactly how 
I did it. I never felt so small in all my life. 
I wanted the ground to open and swallow me up. 
If there had been a convenient hole anywhere 
near I would have crawled into it. As it was I 
sidled off the stage, followed by the jeers and 
laughter of several thousand people. 

My partner was there before me. So was the 
manager of the hall. He was furious. " Get out 
of my sight, you two ! " he cried, " and don't let 
me ever see either of you again." 

We went. What I said to my partner when we 
got outside would not look well in print. Suffice 
it to say that my language was neither kind nor 
complimentary. 

Next morning I went round to the theatre to 
claim my box. The manager was there. To my 
surprise he was quite civil, even courteous. 

" Carlton," he said, " I've been thinking over 
last night's business, and I realise that it wasn't 
your fault. The box trick, of course, is dead as 
mutton. We should never dare to show it again. 



THE TRICK THAT FAILED 53 

But you can, if you like, stay on and give an 
ordinary conjuring and card trick turn. I'll pay 
you £5 a week. What do you say ? " 

Needless to say I promptly closed with the offer. 
It was my first regular engagement at a proper 
hall, and to me at the time the terms seemed 
sufficiently liberal ; as indeed, under the circum- 
stances, they were. 

For seven weeks I performed there, and was 
lucky enough to amuse and please my audience. 
What became of my absent-minded partner I 
haven't the remotest idea. I never saw him again. 



CHAPTER V 

CLIMBING TO FAME AND FORTUNE 

I give an impromptu show at the Palace Theatre — " Chuck him 
out!" — I seek out Mr. Wieland again — At the Crystal 
Palace — I adopt my present make-up — " The Human 
Hairpin " — Charlie Coborn and " Two Lovely Black Eyes " 
— I do a trial turn at the Bedford Music-hall — Billed as a 
star turn at the Alhambra and Palace Theatres — And at 
the " Flea Pit," Hoxton — My reception there — I work 
the Alhambra, Palace, Middlesex, Metropolitan, and Cam- 
bridge together — A record for those days — A Press " spoof " 
— Continental engagements — Paris, Milan — An overdose of 
Chianti — And its results — The night life of Milan — A blood- 
curdling adventure — Murder most foul — Callous passers-by. 

ON my return to Town from Newcastle, 
and remembering how well my show 
went there, I really did begin to think 
that I was " some conjuror/ ' as our American 
friends have it, and I started to look round for a 
regular London engagement. 

Meanwhile I used to visit the galleries of the 
music-halls where conjurors were performing, in 
order to observe their ways and methods, and 
collect such information as I could. On these 
occasions I used invariably to carry a pack of 
cards with me, and one day while I was seated in 
the gallery at the Palace Theatre, Shaftesbury 
Avenue, a conjuror and card manipulator came on 
and did a number of tricks, with every one of 
which I was perfectly familiar. 

Acting on the impulse of the moment, directly 
he had finished his turn, I rose from my seat — 
I was in the front row of the gallery — and facing 
about, and drawing my pack of cards from my 

54 



FAME AND FORTUNE 55 

pocket, I exclaimed : "I can do those tricks ; 
just watch mc." 

Instantly there was a big commotion. Some of 
the people resented the interruption, and there 
were loud cries of " Sit down!' " Shut up!" 
" Chuck him out ! " etc. Others among the 
audience, however, rather welcomed my action, 
and took my part, applauding and laughing. 
Meanwhile the next turn was spoilt, and Mr. 
Charles Morton, the manager, sent an attendant 
to request me to leave, which of course I did. But 
I had achieved what I set out to do, by giving 
what I suppose was the only unauthorised show 
ever performed in public at the Palace. Little did 
I dream as I took my departure, and still less, I 
suppose, did Mr. Morton dream, that I was after- 
wards to fill at this same Palace Theatre no fewer 
than forty-seven different engagements, ranging 
in length from one to eight weeks, and thereby 
establishing a record, so far as this particular 
house is concerned. 

My next step was to seek out my old Aquarium 
" boss," Mr. Wieland, who was now running a 
variety agency in conjunction with Messrs. Oliver 
and Holmes in Cranbourne Street, Leicester 
Square. I told him I was the biggest card 
manipulator that ever was, and asked him for an 
engagement. Mr. Wieland was considerably im- 
pressed by my cheek ; but not otherwise, I 
gathered. Anyhow I didn't succeed in talking 
him into booking me. 

There followed more wearisome running round 
from one agent to another, none of whom would 
listen to me, until m the end I managed to secure, 
but off my own bat, a trial show in a Cafe Chantant 
company then performing at the Crystal Palace 
under the management of Mr. Humphrey E. 



56 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

Brammall. It was then that I first adopted my 
present make-up, and I have never altered it since, 
except that during the first two or three weeks I 
used to wear a long hairy wig, and whiten my face 
like a clown's. 

At that time the regulation stage costume for 
all professional conjurors consisted of ordinary 
evening dress, and the general opinion amongst 
the audiences was that this attire in some way 
assisted the conjuring performance ; that the 
performer, in fact, had " something up his sleeve," 
both figuratively and literally. This gave me the 
idea of dressing myself throughout in black tights, 
so that people could see that there was no con- 
cealment possible. 

This was really the only end I had in view in 
adopting this particular costume. I most certainly 
never contemplated making my turn a comic one. 
Consequently when I went on for my trial show 
at the Crystal Palace, and at which I appeared in 
these tights for the first time, I was considerably 
embarrassed because the audience roared with 
laughter all through my performance, and I 
quitted the stage half believing that I had made 
a mess of it. However, all the other performers 
saying how funny I looked, and what a splendid 
patterer I was, and Charlie Coborn, who was 
singing " Two Lovely Black Eyes " there at the 
time, being especially enthusiastic about me, 
caused me to pluck up courage, and I began to 
think that, after all, I was perhaps going to be a 
success there at all events. 

My surmise turned out correct. Next week I 
topped the bill there at £3 a week, being billed as 
" Carlton Philps, the World's Premier Card 
Manipulator." Following this I secured an en- 
gagement at the Hippodrome, Brighton, then 



FAME AND FORTUNE 57 

under the same management. This was a 
combined circus and stage, and I did my show 
in the ring. 

Returning to London, I again sought out Mr. 
Wieland, and told him of the hit I had made. He 
was not greatly impressed even then, however ; 
he merely said, " All right, my lad, go over 
there in the corner, and let's see what you can 
do." 

Now my show needs now, and it needed then, a 
regular audience in order to make it go properly. 
I did my best, but I could see that Mr. Wieland 
thought precious little of my business. In fact he 
said as much. Agents are not very particular as 
regards the feelings of unknown artistes, and Mr. 
Wieland, although one of the best-natured men 
in the world, was no exception to the rule. How- 
ever his assistant, a gentleman named Altree, 
was more cordial. He seemed to think that there 
might be something in my show that was not 
readily apparent in the drab surroundings of a 
variety agent's office ; and eventually he got me 
a trial turn at the Bedford Music Hall, Camden 
Town, promising at the same time to come down 
and see it for himself, which he did. As a result he 
went back to Mr. Wieland, and reported to him 
that mine was one of the best " acts " he had 
ever seen. 

Still that gentleman was frankly incredulous, 
and he said so when I again waited on him at his 
office on the following day. As luck would have 
it, however, while I was talking to him a telephone 
message came through from the Alhambra Theatre, 
Leicester Square, saying that their star turn, Miss 
Ida Rene, was indisposed, and would Mr. Wieland 
please send someone that evening to take her 
place ? 



58 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

Promptly I saw my chance, and as promptly I 
"butted in." 

" Send me ? " I said. 

Mr. Wieland stared at me in amazement ; too 
flabbergasted at my audacity for a few moments to 
speak. When he found his voice, it was to rate me 
soundly for my impertinence. Did I realise, he 
asked, that they wanted a star turn ? 

" Well, I am a star turn/' I replied, " or, at any 
rate, I've been one. Topped the bill at the Palace, 
you know ! " 

" Palace ? " snorted Wieland. 

" Crystal Palace ! " I corrected. 

" Oh ! " snorted the great man again, and 
wilted me with a look. 

But now Mr. Altree joined in the conversation. 

" Give the lad a chance/' he said. " You haven't 
seen his show. I have. I know. Give him a 
chance, I say. Hell paralyse 'em." 

Well, there was a lot more argument ; but the 
upshot of it was that I went on that evening at the 
Alhambra, and was a big success, exactly as Mr. 
Altree had predicted. Three or four times I was 
called before the curtain at the conclusion of my 
performance, and all the while I was giving my 
show the whole house was, I could see, pleased 
and amused. When I quitted the theatre that 
night I knew that, barring accidents, my future 
in the profession was assured. 

Nor was I unduly optimistic. That Wednesday 
they were a turn short at the Palace, and the assis- 
tant manager there, who had been to the Alhambra 
and seen my show, asked me to come over there 
and deputise. So here was I, a new and compara- 
tively unknown performer, appearing at two of 
the principal West End halls at one and the same 
time, and that moreover at two establishments 



FAME AND FORTUNE 59 

then running in opposition to one another. My 
remuneration for the first week was £4 a week 
from each, but I got a second week's engagement to 
follow on, at £8 a week from each. It was dirt 
cheap, of course, from their point of view. But at 
that time I did not know my own value, and, 
anyway, it seemed to me then a quite munificent 
salary. 

While performing at these two halls, too, I was 
offered an engagement at the Variety, Pitfield 
Street, Hoxton, then irreverently known as the 
" Flea Pit/ 1 at £4 a week. This came to me through 
Macdermott's Agency. It was a two-houses-a- 
night engagement, and I was at the bottom of the 
bill ; a position I was, of course, quite proud of. 
The contrast with the Alhambra was most striking. 
There I had a comfortable dressing-room and a 
refined and cultured audience to play to. At the 
Variety I had to go down a spiral staircase to my 
dressing-room, which was a sort of disused coal- 
hole, or something of the kind, and which more- 
over I had to share with a troupe of performing 
dogs, and about a dozen other artistes. As for the 
audience, it simply beggared description. Probably 
there was no rougher one anywhere in London at 
the time. 

It was about this period that I first began to 
be called " The Human Hairpin/' Standing 
over six feet in height, I was exceedingly thin, 
weighing less than nine and a half stone, and my 
all-black stage make-up accentuated my lanki- 
ness, which I still further increased by wearing 
" elevators," and a high, padded wig, so that I 
looked to be over seven feet. My appearance on 
the stage at the Variety was the signal for so 
uproarious a scene as never before or since have 
I heard or witnessed. The whole house roared and 



60 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

rocked with laughter, and above the indescribable 
din I distinctly remember hearing a girl's voice 
from the gallery shriek out ; " Blimey, ain't he a 
coughdrop ? Look at 'is blinking legs ! " It was 
the custom here, if the audience did not like a 
" turn," to throw " fish and chips " at the un- 
fortunate artiste, which they purchased at a shop 
opposite the theatre. 

As for my performance, it had to be given in 
dumb show. I could not hear myself speak. 
Yells, cat-calls, shrieks filled the air. I went away 
disgusted, but of course I had to return and do my 
show again at the second house. This was the 
same scene over again, only more so. Never had 
I imagined such a pandemonium of noise. 

Next day I went round to Macdermott's Agency, 
told the manager there I was a ghastly failure at 
the Variety, that the audience simply wouldn't 
listen to me, and asked to be released from my 
engagement. " Oh, nonsense ! " he cried. " I 
can't believe it." And he rang up the manager 
of the hall. That gentleman telephoned back to 
say that so far from my having been a failure, he 
had never heard such laughter in his life, and that 
I had made a big hit — presumably, I suppose, from 
the standpoint of the Variety, Hoxton. Anyhow, 
it wasn't so from my standpoint ; and I again 
asked to be released from my contract. " The 
audience was laughing at me, not with me," I 
explained ; " I couldn't hear myself speak." 

" My lad," cried the manager angrily, " you're 
too big for your boots. Because you're appearing 
at the Alhambra you've got a swelled head on 

you." 

Then it was my turn to get angry. ' Look here," 
I answered, " I'll not go on again at the Variety, 
and that's the long and short of it. I wouldn't 



FAME AND FORTUNE 6l 

go through again what I went through last night 
for fifty pounds. I never was so insulted in all 
my life." 

The manager thereupon pointed to a clause in 
my contract, by which it was stipulated that if for 
any reason I declined to fulfil my engagement I 
was to pay him £4 in place of his paying me £4. 
This meant, of course, a dead loss to me of £8. 
Nevertheless, I paid the money, and I never went 
back to the Variety. 

Next week was a record. My fame spread 
among the music-hall managers, and I was offered, 
and accepted, engagements at the Alhambra, 
Palace, Middlesex, Metropolitan, and Cambridge, 
the latter a two-houses-a-night hall. This meant 
my doing six turns a night, and with a brougham, 
there being of course no motor-cars in those days. 
It was a sufficiently arduous task, but I managed 
it all right, and was, I need hardly say, quite 
pleased with myself. 

It was about this time, too, that I began to taste 
the joys of life. One evening just as I had finished 
a late turn at the Palace Theatre, a friend gave me 
a ticket for a Covent Garden Fancy Dress Ball. 
There was not time to change into a costume, even 
if I had had one, so I went just as I was in my 
stage make-up, and signed the book " Arthur 
Philps [my real name] as ' Carlton/ " 

As a result, and greatly to my surprise, I was 
awarded first prize for the best comic costume. 
People came up and congratulated me on what 
they regarded as my " wonderful impersonation." 
Others I heard passing such remarks as, " Isn't 
it like him? ,; "What a marvellous resemblance ! " 
and so on. 

Only Mr. (now Sir Alfred) Butt, the Manager 
of the Palace, who chanced to be present, was not 



62 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

deceived. " By gad, Carlton/' he whispered to 
me, " you have got a nerve ! " 

And, by the way, talking of Sir Alfred reminds 
me of a journalistic advertising " stunt " I worked 
while I was playing at the Palace some time back. 
In conjunction with a Press man I knew, I 
arranged to bring off a " fake " rescue on Hunger- 
ford Bridge about two o'clock one morning. 

At this time there was not a soul on the bridge, 
but I raced off the Surrey end, and gasped out to a 
policeman that there were a couple of hooligans 
up there assaulting an old gentleman. " I've 
given them a pretty good hiding, officer," I said, 
" sorry I can't stop " ; and I ran off towards 
Waterloo Station, as though in a hurry to catch a 
train. 

Next day there appeared in most of the London 
papers an account of the " attempted outrage," 
with the addition that the old gentleman who had 
been assaulted was wishful to thank his unknown 
rescuer, and ask his acceptance of a ten-pound 
note. 

That night, at the Palace, I called Mr. Butt's 
attention to the account of the affair in one of the 
evening papers. 

" It refers to me," I told him. " I was the 
rescuer." 

" Good lad ! "he cried, shaking me by the hand. 
" But what about the ten pounds ? " 

" Well," I said, " I don't like taking that. After 
all I only did my duty in protecting a harmless old 
man from a couple of ruffians. Suppose I hand 
over the money to the Music-hall Benevolent 
Fund ? " 

Naturally he thought this was very kind and 
generous of me, and he told several people 
about it. My Press man also let the story be 



FAME AND FORTUNE 63 

known, and the result was that I got the recep- 
tion of my life when I appeared on the stage 
later on. 

It was a splendid " advert,," and cheap at the 
price — £15 : which was what it cost me ; £10 of 
which I had of course to find out of my own 
pocket for the M.H.B. Fund, and £5 which I 
handed over to my friend the Press man. 

Once fairly launched on my career, the rest was 
comparatively easy. Nevertheless, there were 
occasional spells of out of work, known euphe- 
mistically in the profession as " resting/' and it 
was during one of these intervals of enforced 
leisure that I first made acquaintance with the 
Continent. I had been performing at the Empire, 
Hastings, with the two Brothers Griffiths, well 
known in connection with their famous Blondin 
donkey act, and as they, like me, were out of an 
engagement, they proposed running over to Paris, 
in order to take a look round, and see if they could 
not book an engagement or two there. 

" Why don't you come with us ? " they asked. 
" You might succeed in getting an engagement as 
well, you know." 

In saying this, they were, of course, only kidding 
me. I knew this, too, quite well. But I also made 
up my mind that if I did go, I would not go for 
nothing, at all events if I could help it. 

However I kept my own counsel as to this, 
merely remarking that as I was out of an engage- 
ment for the time being I might as well " rest " 
in Paris as anywhere else, and that I would be 
glad to accompany them ; which I did. 

Arrived there we took up our quarters at the 
Hotel Franklin in the Rue Baulfault, off the Rue 
la Fayette, then a favourite rendezvous for 
English artistes staying in Paris. Next morning 



64 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

the Brothers Griffiths went to call on their agents. 
I went sightseeing. 

That night they started kidding me again, and 
suggested that I should give a trial show at one of 
the Paris music-halls. I pretended to think they 
were in earnest, but at the same time I feigned 
reluctance, pointing out to them — what they knew 
full well beforehand — that I neither spoke nor 
understood the French language. However, I said 
that I would think it over, and they went off in 
great glee to let the other English " pro.'s " staying 
there into the secret of the joke they fondly 
imagined they were going to work off on me. 

Meanwhile I got a friendly waiter at the hotel, 
who understood English, to translate my patter, 
word for word, into its French equivalent. This 
I wrote down phonetically, and used to practise 
it with him on the quiet, and by myself at night 
after I had retired to my room, until I was fairly 
perfect in it. 

Well, my two friends kept kidding me, asking 
me how soon I was going to pluck up courage to 
give my trial show ; and at last I said that I would 
give it if they could arrange the preliminaries for 
me. To this they promptly agreed, and presently 
they came to tell me that they had fixed it up 
through M. Marenelli's agency for me to go on at 
the matinee at the Olympia Theatre, first turn, 
that day. 

The rest of the morning they spent in going 
round and telling all the other English artistes 
then in Paris. Most of these did what are called 
in the profession " dumb acts," a term which 
explains itself, and they were all quite sure that 
the joke was going to be on me, knowing that I 
relied upon my patter, and that I spoke no French. 
To tell the honest truth I thought myself that it 



FAME AND FORTUNE 65 

was odds on them, but I made up my mind to do 
my best to try and win through, and in order to 
assist my memory I scribbled in pencil the tags of 
all my gags on the cuffs of my shirt before going 
down to the theatre. 

Needless to say all my fellow-artistes turned up 
there to witness the fiasco they had made up their 
minds they were going to see. Not that they 
really wished me any harm, or wanted to see me 
humiliated, but it is our way in the profession to 
guy one another, and especially do we delight to 
take it out of a beginner. Well, the curtain rang 
up, and on I went. I was greeted with a regular 
tempest of cheers, mostly ironical, I thought. 
Still, I managed all right at the beginning, though 
afterwards I had to keep turning first to one shirt 
cuff, and then to the other, for guidance and 
inspiration. 

This amused the kindly French people im- 
mensely, and I soon had my audience in great 
good humour, and I was rewarded with round 
after round of hearty, genuine applause. In short, 
my " turn" was a success, a big success indeed ; and 
when I came off there were no fewer than three 
managers waiting in the wings to interview me. 

Naturally I let them bid against one another 
for my services, and eventually I closed with the 
best offer, which came from an Italian, Signor 
Caroselli. He engaged me to go to the Eden 
Theatre, Milan, at a salary of one hundred francs 
a day for seven days a week, approximately £28 
a week in our money. Of course I was as ignorant 
of Italian as I was of French, but I adopted the 
plan I had found so efficacious in Paris, translating 
my English into phonetic Italian, and it worked 
splendidly. 

My original engagement with Signor Caroselli 



66 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

was for fifteen days, but I remained working in 
Milan for eight weeks straight off. During this 
period I did my show at the Eden in the evening, 
and at the Villa Giardino — an open-air cafe 
chantant — in the afternoon, and also at the 
Stablini Theatre ; and during a part of my 
engagement I filled the triple bill at all three 
places, a thing never done before in Milan. 

On the very first day of my engagement, how- 
ever, I nearly came a cropper. It happened in this 
way. The Eden Theatre was a restaurant in the 
day time, and even in the evening there were 
little tables dotted about all over the place where 
people could come and eat a dinner while listen- 
ing to the performance. Working at the restau- 
rant there was an Italian waiter who had served 
for a long time at Pinoli's Restaurant in London, 
and who started out to help me by teaching me a 
sufficiency of colloquial Italian for my business. 

Well, I got there in the morning, and this waiter 
told me that the proper thing to eat for dinner 
was a dish of spaghetti (fine macaroni) washed 
down with a flask of chianti wine. I followed his 
advice, and then, feeling tired, and as my turn, a 
late one, was not until ten-thirty that night, I 
thought I would go home to my lodgings and rest 
awhile. 

Now in Milan chianti wine is very cheap. It 
is also, but this is a detail, very potent. When 
serving it with a meal, it is the custom there to 
place upon the table a huge flagon of it, holding, 
I suppose, about a couple of quarts, and which is 
swung upon a pivot. The diner helps himself to 
as much as he wants of this by tilting up the 
flagon, thereby allowing the wine to run out into 
his glass, and he is charged for as much of it as he 
drinks, and no more. 



FAME AND FORTUNE 67 

But I, of course, knew nothing of all this. I 
thought the entire flagon was intended for my 
consumption, and the day being very hot, and 
myself feeling very thirsty, I drank the lot. The 
natural result was that when I reached my lodgings 
I felt horribly drowsy, so calling my landlady I 
told her to call me at " otto d' ora " (eight o'clock) 
and lay down to rest feeling quite proud at having 
been able so soon to air, to even that limited 
extent, my newly acquired knowledge of Italian. 

Alas ! I was presently to discover that mine 
was the pride that goes before a fall, for Italian 
time is reckoned right round the clock, and I 
ought by rights to have told her to call me at 
" venti d' ora " (twenty o'clock), eight o'clock 
there being in the morning. The result was that 
I overslept myself, and when I at length awoke, 
of my own accord, the performance at the theatre 
was over and done with for that evening. 

I was in a terrible fever, and rushed round to 
find the manager and explain matters. I expected 
nothing less than instant dismissal, but instead, 
the manager, when I had explained matters, 
laughed heartily after the good-natured Italian 
fashion, as if the being obliged to do without his 
star turn for his opening performance was one 
of the best jokes imaginable. Needless to say I 
took care to be on time the next night. Also I was 
wary of the chianti for the future. 

I thoroughly enjoyed my stay in the beautiful 
city of Milan, barring one terrible incident, the 
memory of which is indelibly engraven on my 
memory ; and which I will now proceed to 
narrate. First, however, I must explain that in 
order to reach my apartment in the house I 
lodged in, I had to unlock no fewer than four 
separate doors. The first of these doors opened 



68 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

from the street into a sort of passage, or corridor, 
at the end of which was a second locked door giving 
admittance to a quadrangle. A third door, one of 
several, and also locked, led from this quadrangle 
to a common staircase, whence a fourth locked 
door led to my bedroom. For the purpose of un- 
locking all these four doors, I was provided with 
one key only, but that of the most peculiar con- 
struction. It was in effect, indeed, four keys in 
one, being shaped like an iron cross, the four 
separate arms fitting each its own separate indi- 
vidual lock, and none other. 

I should imagine that it would be hard to invent 
a more bothersome key than this diabolical con- 
trivance, especially to the roysterer returning home 
late at night, and in the dark. The ordinary 
single latchkey is sometimes sufficiently puzzling 
to the late comer at his own home who has dined 
not wisely but too well. Try and imagine the 
effect in similar circumstances of a fourfold key, 
each arm, or barrel, call it what you will, looking 
exactly alike, but each quite different, in that only 
one of the four is designed to unlock whichever 
particular lock you may be at the moment 
negotiating, the odds being, of course, exactly 
four to one against your picking out the right 
barrel in the first instance. 

Well, on this particular occasion I don't mind 
confessing that I was in a fairly blithesome mood. 
I had in fact been " out with the boys " seeing the 
night side of life in Milan, and was returning home 
to my lodgings in the early dawn feeling at peace 
with all the world, when, on turning the corner of 
the street where I stayed, I was startled to observe 
a man walking towards me, and being shadowed, 
at a distance in rear, by another man, who was 
carrying in his hand a long, bright-bladed stiletto. 



FAME AND FORTUNE 69 

I stopped suddenly, but before I had time to 
call out, or even to collect my thoughts, the man in 
the rear suddenly bounded forward and buried his 
weapon in the other's back, between the shoulders. 
The stabbed man uttered one single, terrible 
groan, and sank in a huddled heap to the pave- 
ment, right in front of the door leading to the house 
I was lodging in. 

The murderer looked hastily round, listened 
intently for a moment or two, then stooped to 
withdraw his knife, and strode off in my direction. 
My first impulse naturally was to turn and run, 
but on second thoughts I concluded that as he 
might not yet have seen me, perhaps my safest 
plan was to keep straight on as if I had seen 
nothing. 

I therefore started whistling in apparent un- 
concern ; but the assassin evidently suspected me. 
He allowed me to pass, then wheeled swiftly, as 
if intending to go for me ; whereupon I took to 
my heels, and he after me. 

Luckily I am a good sprinter, and on this occa- 
sion I ran like the wind, doubling and turning 
through the maze of silent and deserted streets 
for fully ten minutes. Then I stopped and 
listened. I had thoughts of calling for assistance 
as I ran, and was even on the point of doing so, 
when it suddenly occurred to me that I was just 
as likely to bring upon the scene some other 
desperado, or desperadoes, friends or accomplices 
very possibly of my pursuer. 

I therefore refrained from giving the alarm, and 
presently, walking very gingerly, proceeding by 
devious ways, and keeping a sharp look-out 
round corners, I reached once more the street 
where the tragedy occurred. There was the body 
lying where it had fallen, right in front of the door 



70 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

I had perforce to enter in order to reach my 
apartment. I tiptoed to the spot. The man was 
obviously stone dead, and a great pool of blood 
had by now collected on the pavement, and run in 
red rivulets to the gutter. 

Shivering with fright and apprehension, I 
stepped over the corpse, and started to unlock 
the street door. Of course I tried the wrong key, 
and that not once nor twice. It seemed to me 
that minutes elapsed while I was fumbling about 
with that beastly puzzle-key, and all the while I 
kept nervously glancing back over my shoulder, 
fearing that the murderer would return. Had he 
done so I had every reason to suppose that my 
shrift would be a short one, for obviously the 
man had come to the conclusion that I had been 
a witness of his crime, as indeed, of course, I 
had, and for that very reason he would, I am 
convinced, have had no hesitation in killing me 
also. 

However, I presently got the door unlocked, and 
slipped inside, after which I roused the concierge 
and told him what had happened. But, greatly to 
my surprise, he refused to take any action. 

" It is no concern of ours," he said. " If the 
poor fellow were only wounded now, signor ? " 
he went on thoughtfully. " Well, we might be 
of some assistance to him. But he is dead, you 
say ? " 

I nodded acquiescence. 

" Very well then ! In that case best leave 
matters as they are. The police will no doubt 
find him later. Also, no doubt, they will come 
here, seeing that the murdered man is lying out- 
side this house. But as for me, I know nothing. 
And best for you also, signor/' he added signifi- 
cantly, " to know nothing. Police proceedings 



FAME AND FORTUNE 71 

here in Milan are apt to be long drawn out and 
troublesome." 

So saying, the concierge went back to bed, and 
I went off upstairs to my room. Sleep, however, 
for me, was, I need hardly say, out of the question. 
Softly drawing the curtains aside from the big 
front windows, which opened, in continental 
fashion, on a little balcony overlooking the street, 
I peered out. 

There was the body, lying cold and still in the 
grey dawn. Presently a man roughly garbed, 
probably a workman on his way to his day's toil, 
came along on a bicycle. He stopped on seeing 
the corpse, and dismounted. But after a very 
cursory examination he mounted again and rode 
off, shrugging his shoulders as if to intimate that 
it was no concern of his. 

A little later a man drove up in a cart, and he 
went off and fetched the police. That day our 
house was invaded by inspectors and detectives, 
and I, in common with all the other inmates of the 
building, was subjected to a searching interroga- 
tion. 

Acting on the advice of my friend the concierge, 
however, I replied that I knew nothing whatever 
about the murder ; and there, so far as I was 
concerned, the matter ended. 

But I have often wondered since what was the 
ultimate upshot of it all, and what was the name 
and the station in life of the unhappy victim. 



CHAPTER VI 

PLAYING IN HUNLAND 

Vienna and the Viennese — Churls by nature and instinct — How 
I made " There's a Girl in Havana " go down there — 
Chorus men and waiters — Some innocent tricks of the music- 
hall trade — In Berlin — Death of my giant — Official boorish- 
ness — German sharp practice — I engage a Hun giant — 
Uncomfortable railway travelling — At Buda-Pesth — More 
sharp practice — I throw up my engagement and return to 
England in disgust — Litigation and worry — My case is 
taken up by the Variety Artistes' Federation — A new 
Battle of Prague " — Which I lose — A story of a " mis- 
spelled " railway station — Back in Old England — A day's 
rabbit shooting — The two " Arthur Carltons." 

IATER, during my professional wanderings 
through Europe, I could not but con- 
— • trast the treatment I received in France 
and Italy with that meted out to me in Ger- 
many and Austria. Our allies, the French and 
Italians, are gentlemen by instinct ; kindly, 
considerate, and courteous. The Germans I found 
exactly the reverse, and the Austrians are not 
much better. Nor are either of them above 
snatching a mean business advantage from an 
artiste if they get half a chance to do so. 

As an example of their churlishness — I shall 
come to their sharp practice later — I cannot do 
better than cite a little incident that occurred in 
Vienna just before the war. I had been given a 
two months' engagement at the Apollo Theatre 
there, and sharing the top of the bill with me was 
Miss Ethel Levey (now Mrs. Graham- Whit e) . 

She had never performed there before, and was a 

72 



PLAYING IN HUNLAND 73 

trifle nervous. Hers was the turn before mine. 
She sang her first song, and came off. There was 
practically dead silence throughout the theatre ; 
she hardly got a single " hand." 

Naturally she was very much upset, but by dint 
of coaxing her I managed to persuade her to go on 
and sing her second song — " There's a girl in 
Havana." She sang this first in English, and then 
in her pretty broken German, which she had 
specially coached up for the occasion. 

Miss Levey is, I need not say, an artiste to her 
finger-tips, and her singing and acting on this 
occasion were absolutely faultless. Yet the 
churlish Viennese would have none of it. There 
was no applause, or at all events so little as 
made no odds, and the general tone of the 
audience was, if not exactly hostile, at least not 
favourable. 

Just try and imagine a London audience at, say, 
the Empire or the Alhambra, behaving in this 
fashion to a continental lady artiste of standing 
and repute on her first appearance ! It made me 
mad. And I made up my mind then and there 
that they had just got to hear Miss Levey, and 
not only hear her, but applaud her into the 
bargain. 

To this end I suggested to Mr. Ben Tieber, the 
manager of the hall, that he should have a sheet 
put up at the back of the stage with the words of 
the chorus on it in English and German. This he 
promised should be done. He also fell in with my 
suggestion to have the waiters (for on the Conti- 
nent it is customary for people to dine in the hall) 
taught the tune and words, and to engage half-a- 
dozen chorus men, and put them in different parts 
of the building. 

The result was that the next night the song went 



74 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

exceedingly well, and within a week the lilting 
melody had taken Vienna by storm, and was 
being sung and whistled in every caf6, on the 
streets, in the parks, everywhere in fact. All the 
same, I can never forgive the churlish Viennese for 
their first reception of the lady who popularised it 
there. 

My own experience of German manners and 
customs was a far more serious matter for me. 
It took place some three years before the war, and 
when, therefore, our relations with Germany were 
supposed to be of the best. I had been booked to 
appear, with my company, at the Winter Gardens, 
Berlin. In my show was a dwarf, and also a giant. 
The latter, an American named Bobby Dunlop, 
was a veritable mountain of flesh, the fattest man 
in the world. He weighed over forty stone, and as 
he could not pass his immense bulk through the 
door of an ordinary railway carriage, he had to be 
accommodated in the luggage van. 

Also he had to be taken from the station to the 
music-hall on a lorry, drawn by two huge dray- 
horses, a source of wonderment to the Berlin 
people, and likewise an excellent advertisement 
for my show. I remember, too, by the way, that 
once, when we were performing in London, I had 
him driven in a similar lorry down the Strand to a 
tailor's shop there, where they were advertising 
for sale thirty shilling suits. Bobby marched in 
and ordered one. 

Speaking of giants, one of mine (not Bobby) 
was an exceptionally bad sailor, and on one 
occasion, during the crossing of the Bay of Biscay 
on the voyage out to the Cape, his sufferings from 
sea-sickness were atrocious. 

Aroused by his groans and gurgles one stormy 
night, I went to his cabin which was next to mine. 



PLAYING IN HUNLAND 75 

" Can't you keep anything on your stomach ? " 
I said sympathetically. 

" Only my hands," moaned the poor giant. 

Poor Bobby was a jolly fellow — for a giant. 
Giants are usually more or less irritable and 
lachrymose. At all events this is my experience 
of them, and I have had several in my employ in 
my time. But Bobby was just the reverse of this, 
always singing and laughing. At least, he was 
before he came to Berlin. Then a cloud seemed 
to come over him. His cheerfulness departed. 
He got homesick. Kept on saying that he didn't 
like the country, and that he wanted to get back 
to America. 

Consequently I was not greatly surprised when, 
a few days after we opened in Berlin, my little 
dwarf came to me pulling a very long face, and 
said : " Mr. Carlton, Bobby's gone." 

I was playing billiards at the time, and intent 
on my game ; so beyond remarking that it was a 
good job too, I took little notice. I knew, anyhow, 
that he could not get far without a passport, and 
that a man of his dimensions could be easily 
traced, and brought back again. 

" But, Mr. Carlton," persisted the little chap, 
" I mean Bobby's dead." 

" What ! " I ejaculated ; and dropping my cue, 
I ran off to his lodgings. 

It was only too true. The big man was no more. 
He was, I was informed, sitting on the side of his 
bed singing " Love me and the world is mine," 
when he suddenly gave a gasp and expired. 

Knowing something from hearsay of the methods 
of German officialdom I expected trouble. Nor 
was I disappointed. 

For four days I was kept running about from 
police station to police station, and from one 



76 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

official bureau to another. I answered about a 
million questions and filled up reams of official 
forms and papers. The police took possession of 
all the dead man's effects, and but for the inter- 
vention of the American Embassy I should have 
been unable to recover a number of my " props " 
which he had in his room. 

On the afternoon of the day he died they sent 
and took the body from his lodgings to the 
public mortuary. It was about the biggest job of 
the kind, I suppose, that they had ever under- 
taken. So heavy was he that he broke the police 
stretcher, and about a dozen of them had to carry 
the poor fellow bodily to the mortuary by grabbing 
hold of him here, there, and everywhere, the best 
way they could. At his funeral, too, about 
twelve men had to carry the specially made 
coffin in relays by means of hooks attached to 
the bottom. It was rather a gruesome " dead 
march." 

Towards evening of the day he died, tired out 
and dispirited, I sought the manager of the Winter 
Gardens, and told him of my loss. I expected 
sympathy, but I most certainly got none. 

" Your giant has dropped down dead, has he ? " 
remarked the manager. " That is a pity, because 
he is the best part of the show. You will of 
course now take very much less money to stop on ? 
Is it not so ? " 

" Not much, I won't ! " I retorted hotly ; for as 
a matter of fact the giant had very little to do 
with my show, which is essentially a one-man 
turn. He used to walk on at the end of my per- 
formance, in order to seat himself on a chair, which 
broke down under his weight. He then had to 
pretend to get angry and obstreperous, when the 
dwarf would march in and persuade him to go 



PLAYING IN HUNLAND 77 

quietly after everyone else — including the stage 
hands — had failed. This always caused a lot of 
laughter, and constituted a good curtain, but that 
was about all. It had really nothing to do with 
my conjuring performance proper. 

As a matter of fact, when I went on that night 
my show went just as well as it had done before, 
nor was there any falling-off afterwards. Never- 
theless, at the end of my month's engagement 
they stopped half my salary. 

This was a serious matter for me, because I was 
due to appear on the Monday following at the 
Orpheum Fovarosi Theatre, Buda-Pesth, and 
what with the expenses connected with my 
giant's funeral plus a run of ill luck at cards and 
racing, I didn't have enough money left to pay 
the railway fares for myself, my company, and my 
wife and eldest daughter, who were accompanying 
me. Nor was there any time to get money from 
my bankers in England. The only thing I could 
manage, and that with a lot of difficulty, was to 
borrow T just enough, at an exorbitant rate of 
interest, to pay the second-class fares, leaving us 
not even sufficient over with which to buy food 
on our long journey. I should add that I had 
engaged another giant in Berlin, but he insisted 
at the last moment on being paid £10 in advance 
before he would come to Buda-Pesth, and this 
put the finishing touch on my impecuniosity. 
My only consolation lay in the fact that the 
narrow wooden seats of the second-class car 
incommoded him far more than they did us people 
of normal size. 

However, I did well at Buda-Pesth, and from 
there I went on to Prague, where I opened on a 
Sunday. I gave my first performance in the 
afternoon, everything went with a bang and a 



78 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

flourish from start to finish, and I came off feeling 
very pleased with myself. A few minutes after- 
wards a messenger came up to me as I was standing 
in the wings, and said that the manager wanted 
to see me in his private office. 

Naturally I thought that he wanted to con- 
gratulate me. Nothing of the sort. When I 
arrived there I found all the directors sitting in 
solemn conclave round a big table, and before I 
could utter a word a choleric-looking individual, 
whom I took to be the chairman, burst forth as 
follows : " Mr. Carlton, your show is rotten. In 
fact it is not at all the show we bargained for. 
Where is your other giant ? " 

" He's dead/' I explained. " He died in Berlin, 
as you very well know, for full accounts of the 
affair have been published in the papers.. But the 
giant I have now is an even greater draw here than 
was the original one, for he speaks German, and 
can therefore make himself easily understood by 
your audiences, which the other, being an 
American, could not do." 

There was a lot more talk, the upshot of the 
business being that they wanted to insist on my 
accepting half the salary I had contracted for. 
I, however, was in no mood to repeat my Berlin 
experiences, nor did I intend to. I pointed out to 
them that my contract said nothing about giants, 
or, for the matter of that, about dwarfs either. 
These adjuncts to my show were introduced by 
myself for my own purposes, and I had a perfect 
right to dispense with them altogether, if I saw 
fit to do so. 

I therefore declined to go on again unless they 
paid me my money as agreed, and as they refused 
to do this I packed up my traps, and returned to 
London. On my arrival I reported the matter to 




BOBBY DUNLOP, CARLTON'S AMERICAN u FAT MAN,' 

IN BERLIN 



WHO DROPPED DEAD 



PLAYING IN HUNLAND 79 

the Variety Artistes' Federation. This is, in 
effect, our trade union, and amongst other 
benefits we derive, in return for our subscriptions, 
is that of free legal advice. 

Well, the V.A.F. decided to fight the Prague 
case through the International Artistes' Lodge, an 
association which before the war used to protect 
and look after the interests of our artistes in 
Germany and Austria, we, in our turn, doing the 
same by theirs over here. The legal battle was 
waged long and fiercely in the Austrian courts, 
but after nine months of litigation their judges 
decided against us, the result being that I was 
done out of the sum that I ought by right to have 
received for my Prague engagement, and the 
V.A.F. was called upon to pay several hundred 
pounds in costs. Following these experiences I 
decided to accept no more engagements in 
Germany or Austria, nor have I. 

I should have mentioned that when I first went 
to Vienna my wife did not accompany me, but 
followed me later on ; she wiring me the date and 
hour of her arrival, and asking me to be sure and 
meet her at the station, which of course I did. 
Much to my dismay and perplexity, however, 
when the train drew up at the platform she was 
nowhere to be seen. 

I looked everywhere for her, in the refreshment 
buffet, in the ladies' waiting-rooms, etc., thinking 
she might have slipped past me in the crowd. But 
all in vain. At length, and at the very last 
moment, it occurred to me to search the train 
itself ; and there sure enough I found her, con- 
tentedly playing with our eldest child, then quite 
a baby. 

" Why on earth didn't you get out ? " I asked, 
somewhat angrily I am afraid, as I hustled the 



80 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

pair of them on to the platform just as the train 
was starting. 

" But this isn't Vienna," replied my wife, with 
a pretty air of perplexity. " It's Wien. Look, 
there's the name on that big board over there." 

Then I understood. The Austrians spell the 
name of their capital city that way, i.e. Wien, 
and not as we spell it — Vienna. The mistake was 
therefore a quite excusable one on the part of an 
English girl who had never set foot in Austria 
before. Nevertheless it was lucky for both of us 
that I happened to enter her compartment just 
when I did, for the train she was travelling by was 
the Trans-Continental Express, and the next stop 
after quitting Vienna was some three hundred 
miles down the line towards Constantinople. 

By the way, I cannot recommend Vienna as a 
place of residence for married men who habitually 
stay out late at night, and who are not over 
wishful to let their better halves know what hour 
they return home. And for this reason. A house- 
holder in Vienna, or even the occupier of a suite of 
rooms, or a flat, who is out after eleven o'clock at 
night, has to put two coins, value about twopence 
of our money, in a sort of automatic penny-in-the- 
slot contrivance which is affixed to all the doors 
in order to obtain admission to his own domicile. 
And, furthermore, the beastly little tell-tale 
machine actually registers the time of your 
arrival. 

Soon after my return to England, while I was 
playing at a certain northern town, I was invited 
by the Chief Constable to go for a day's rabbit 
shooting on a big estate some few miles out. 

There were about a dozen guns altogether. We 
motored to the place, and before starting the 
Chief Constable addressed us somewhat as follows : 



PLAYING IN HUNLAND 81 

" Now, gentlemen, mind this is a rabbit shoot. 
No pheasants are to be killed under any pretence 
whatever. Remember, all of you ! it's the close 
season and it's a very great privilege we have been 
accorded, and it must not be abused." 

Of course we all promised to remember, and the 
shoot commenced. I was given a place on the 
extreme outside of the covert, where I was hidden 
from the remainder of the party by the thick 
undergrowth. 

Presently I found myself within a few yards 
of the Chief Constable. I could see him quite 
plainly, but he could not see me. 

There were lots of pheasants about, and soon I 
saw the Chief peer cautiously round to see if any- 
body was looking ; then he let drive at a fine 
cock bird, which he picked up and put in the 
inside pocket of his shooting jacket. 

A little later I also yielded to temptation, and 
bagged a bird for myself. But before I could pick 
it up, the Chief Constable burst through the under- 
growth in a furious rage, and started to tell me off. 
A lot of the others, attracted by the noise, 
gathered round, everybody looking daggers at me. 

I felt, I must confess, pretty small, though not 
nearly so small as I should have felt if I had not 
known what I did. 

Finally the Chief Constable, after one violent 
explosive volley of objurgation, in the course of 
which he bade me clear off and never let him see 
my face again, paused for lack of breath. 

Then it was my turn. In his heat and excite- 
ment his jacket had become slightly disarranged, 
and I saw, greatly to my delight, two ends of tail 
feathers peeping out. 

Edging closer to him by degrees, and muttering 
apologies all the while, I suddenly put out my 



82 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

hand, and with an, " Excuse me, sir, but what are 
these ? " I whipped out the dead pheasant. 

Never in my life did I see a man more com- 
pletely taken aback. His face changed from red 
to white from white to red again. He stamped up 
and down. Then he essayed to say something, 
but a roar of laughter drowned his voice. 

Finally, putting the best face he could upon it, 
he picked up both birds, and cried : " Put 'em in 
the car, and for God's sake don't tell anybody 
anything about it." 

There is in England a theatre proprietor, the 
owner of several houses, with the same name as 
myself — Arthur Carlton. One of his theatres is 
at Worcester, where also his headquarters are. 

This doubling of names has been the cause of 
some confusion. For instance, once while I was 
at the Palace Theatre, London, I received through 
the post a cheque — " Pay Arthur Carlton, Esq., 
£250." It really ought to have been delivered to 
him, and after a lapse of three days I received a 
letter from him beginning " Dear Namesake," 
inquiring about it. Needless to say I sent it on to 
him by return of post. 

At this time, and for some time afterwards, I 
had never met him ; but one year, when I was 
playing in pantomime at Newcastle, he wrote to 
me saying he would like to make my acquaintance, 
and if I had a week vacant at the close of the 
pantomime season, would I come down to 
Worcester and do a turn at his theatre there ? 

As it happened I did have a week vacant, and 
I was naturally quite agreeable. Now it is the 
custom among artistes on the last night of a 
pantomime engagement to have a bit of a " flare- 
up," and we did so on this occasion, the champagne 
circulating freely. 



PLAYING IN HUNLAND 83 

We kept it up late, or rather, to be strictly 
accurate, early, so that I hud to hurry straight 
from the theatre to catch my train for Worcester, 
which left at the unearthly hour of two-thirty on 
Sunday morning. 

On the Monday I met my namesake for the first 
time, and the first words he greeted me with were, 
" Here's a pretty go/' at the same time pointing 
to a stack of letters about a foot high on the table 
of his private room at the theatre, all addressed to 
" Arthur Carlton, Esq." 

I had arranged, of course, to have my corre- 
spondence forwarded to the theatre in the usual 
way, never giving a moment's thought to the 
confusion that would arise. Now we neither of us 
knew which letters were mine and which were his. 

" Well," I said at last, " I've no business that I 
am ashamed of. You're quite at liberty to open 
my letters." 

" All right ! " he answered, and started on the 
topmost one of the pile. He opened it, glanced at 
it, then threw it over to me. 

" That's yours ! " he said. 

Something in his manner made me feel uneasy. 
I grabbed the letter, read the first few lines ; then 
my face fell. 

" Dear Mr. Carlton," it ran. " Aren't you 
ashamed of yourself, running away without 
paying your bill ? And me a poor lone widow, 
with three little children to support, etc., etc." 

The letter was from my late landlady. In my 
excitement and hurry I had quitted Newcastle 
without settling up with her for my week's board 
and lodging, the affair having, I need hardly 
explain, entirely slipped my memory. 

I don't think I ever felt so small in my life. But 
of course I very quickly explained to my name- 



84 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

sake how the mistake had happened, and a cheque 
to my landlady sufficed to appease that (justly) 
irate dame. 

All the same, I reflected, it was a scurvy trick 
for Fate to play me. 

Shortly after this I was at the Alhambra, 
Brighton, now a picture palace. Sam Mayo, the 
" immobile comedian/ ' was also there, and it 
happened to be the first anniversary of his 
wedding ; so he invited me, and three or four 
other " pros/' to a house he was staying at on the 
front, with a view to celebrating the occasion. 
Amongst the company was Malcolm Scott, the 
well-known female impersonator, and brother of 
Admiral Sir Percy Scott. 

There was champagne galore, and we were all 
very merry, when at about 2 a.m. I suggest ed, 
apparently on the spur of the moment, that we 
should all go for a bathe in the sea to sober us 
up. The suggestion was received with acclamation 
by all present, barring Malcolm ; the fact being 
that it was a put-up job between the rest of us 
to play a trick on him, though of this he had no 
suspicion. 

The weather was bitterly cold, it being mid- 
winter ; nevertheless, we all proceeded to the sea- 
front, including Malcolm, who naturally did not 
care to be the only one to hang back. Then we 
started to undress, but as none of us had the 
slightest intention of going into the water, we 
naturally didn't hurry over the operation. I 
especially, although I removed my coat, and 
made great play with my boots, the laces of 
which refused to come untied. I saw to that. 

As a result Malcolm was the first and only one 
to make the plunge. Immediately, I gathered up 
his clothes, and ran back into the house with them ; 



PLAYING IN HUNLAND 85 

while Ernest Lepard, the manager of the 
Alhambra, who was of the party, went and 
fetched a policeman whom he knew, and got 
him to pretend to arrest Malcolm on a charge of 
infringing the local by-laws by bathing nude on 
the front. 

By this time our victim had come out of the 
water, and was standing shivering and blue with 
the cold on the promenade. Likewise, despite 
the unearthly hour, quite a small crowd had 
gathered, attracted by the unusual spectacle. 

I, for one, beginning to think that the joke had 
gone far enough, fetched his clothes and asked 
him to dress himself. Not so, however, Malcolm. 
Addressing the policeman, he said : " All right, 
constable, do your duty. You've arrested me like 
this. Now take me to the station like this." 

His insistence naturally put the policeman in a 
bit of a quandary ; and, probably fearing trouble 
with his superiors, and noting out of the corner 
of his eye the gathering crowd, he quietly slipped 
away. Whereupon, to our consternation, Malcolm 
announced his intention of staying where he was 
until another policeman came along. 

Eventually we had to carry him forcibly back 
into the house, where he promptly collapsed. He 
came round after we had poured about half a 
bottle of neat whisky down his throat, and piled 
a dozen blankets on top of him before a roaring 
fire ; but I have come to the conclusion since that 
it was rather a silly joke to play. It might easily 
have caused the death of our victim. 

It was about this time that I started to work 
an illusion of my own which I called " The 
Mysterious Cross." It created a big sensation 
all over the country, topping the bills wherever it 
was shown ; but as I am no believer in the saying 






86 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

about good wine needing no bush, I used a device 
of my own to further advertise it at all the towns 
where I showed it. Of which more anon ! 

The trick consisted in having a wooden cross, 
to which my sister Olive, who has a very beautiful 
figure, was bound securely. Only one long rope 
was used, this being fastened round her waist and 
neck, and finished off at the wrists, which were 
extended to the ends of the arms of the cross, the 
two ends of the rope being then held by two 
members of the audience. 

While the rope was thus being held, she used 
to vanish from under a curtain that had mean- 
while been drawn round her, and my assistant 
was found, on the curtain being withdrawn, to 
have taken her place. The whole thing was 
practically instantaneous, and the illusion has, 
I may say, baffled some of the biggest experts in 
the world. I used no mirrors, wires, trick scenery, 
or trap -doors, one or some or all of which in 
conjunction form the basis of most illusions of 
the kind, and the secret has never been found out 
by anybody to this day. 

Now as to the advertising stunt I mentioned ! 
I used to pay a man to rise from his seat amongst 
the audience on my opening night, and call out 
to me that he knew quite well how it was done — 
that I used a trap-door in the stage. Of course I 
would pretend to be very surprised and indignant, 
and protest that it was not so. But the man would 
insist that he was right, and challenge me to prove 
the contrary by doing the trick openly, without 
the aid of the enveloping curtain, so that the 
audience could judge between us. 

" No," I would say, " I cannot do that, for this 
trick is my livelihood, and if I let the people see 
how it is done, it will be no attraction for the rest 



PLAYING IN HUNLAND 87 

of the week and I can never come back here again 
with it." Then I would go on to say that if the 
interrupter could come behind the scenes after the 
show, I would show him privately how it was 
done. 

But, no ! The man would insist that what he 
wanted was a public exposition. He knew there 
was a concealed trap-door. I had as good as 
called him a liar. And so on. 

By this time the place would be in an uproar. 
Some few of the audience, possibly, siding with 
the interrupter, but the bulk of them, almost 
invariably, being on my side. Then if the 
manager was a sport, I would have him come on 
the stage from the wings, by prior arrangement 
between us, and pretend to whisper a few words 
in my ear. 

Whereupon, on his retirement, I would advance 
to the footlights and, with a sob in my throat, hold 
forth somewhat as follows : " Ladies and gentle- 
men, if I expose this trick now, on my opening 
night, nobody will come here during the week, and 
business will be ruined. As I have been publicly 
challenged, however, I as publicly promise that on 
Friday night I will perform the trick openly with- 
out drawing the curtain, so that everybody will be 
able to see with their own eyes how it is done, and 
that I do not use a trap-door on the stage." 

The next day, and all through the week, the 
town would be placarded all over with bills 
(previously printed) headed " Sensational 
Challenge to Carlton," and giving particulars of 
the forthcoming exposure of the " Mysterious 
Cross " illusion. The result was that Friday, 
usually the slackest night of the week, saw the 
theatre packed to suffocation at both houses. 

I kept my word, too, and performed the trick 



88 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

openly without the curtain. But so quick were our 
movements, the whole thing only lasting about 
two seconds, that even then the audience were 
quite unable to detect how it was done. They 
could, however, see that there was no trap door. 

So good was this trick, and so great an interest 
did it arouse, that I used almost invariably to get 
a return date. On my second visit, however, 
I could not of course work the same advertising 
stunt, so I evolved another one, as follows : 

I used to announce from the stage that I would 
give £5 for the best letter written by any member 
of the audience, after seeing the trick, explaining 
how it was done. These letters, when received, 
I used to read out from the stage at subsequent 
performances, thereby stimulating the public's 
curiosity and interest. Some of the explanations 
were very ingenious, but none of the writers ever 
came anywhere near to guessing the secret of the 
trick. If no real letters were forthcoming that 
were sufficiently amusing I used to compose fake 
ones myself. 

However, so as not to leave behind me the im- 
pression that I was trying to shirk my obligations 
to the public, I always used to arrange with some- 
body to appear on the stage as the winner, and 
claim and receive the £5. Afterwards my manager 
would wait for him in the wings and get back £4 
of the money, leaving the recipient £1 as the 
reward of his trouble. 

But, alas ! one day my man was called away 
to the telephone at the critical moment, and forgot 
all about the business of retrieving my fiver. He 
did his best to find the recipient, hunting high and 
low, but it was not until late on the following day 
that he was discovered in a local " pub/' sur- 
rounded and being complimented by his pals, 



PLAYING IN HUNLAND 89 

whom he had been treating — with my money — 
in the most lordly way conceivable. All he had 
left of the £5 was a few — a very few — shillings. 

I may add that it is difficult for me to explain 
in print, unless with the aid of elaborate diagrams, 
precisely how this trick is worked. 



CHAPTER VII 

AUSTRALIAN EXPERIENCES 

Eastward bound on the Ortona — Dinners and diners — Spoofing 
a chief steward — A brush with the master-of-Arms — " Queer- 
ing " a poker game — Trouble in the smoke-room — We plan 
revenge — And execute it — Potatoes as ammunition — The 
cold water cure — The Captain sends for me — I decline to go 
— Trouble brewing — I run my head into the lion's mouth 
— And am frog-marched before the captain — A stormy 
interview — I am threatened to be put in irons — All's well 
that ends well — A benefit performance at sea — Arrival in 
Melbourne — A tale of two champions — Rabbit - shooting 
extraordinary — I bag a laughing jackass — And am hauled 
before the " beak " — Fined ten shillings and costs — I am 
glad at having " got the bird " — The " interfering parrot." 

OF all my professional engagements out- 
side the United Kingdom I look back 
upon the days I spent amongst our 
Australian kinsmen with the greatest pleasure and 
satisfaction. 

I went out on the Orient liner Ortona, and my 
eldest child, a girl, was born while I was upon the 
voyage, so I had her christened Ortona. 

At Colombo the boat was surrounded by divers, 
who dived for silver coins thrown into the water 
by the passengers, and very quick and clever at 
it, too, some of them were. 

Finally a one-armed chap offered to dive right 
under the bottom of the vessel, going in on one 
side and coming up on the other, for a shilling. 

" All right ! " we said. In he went, and we all 
ran over to the other side to see him come up. 
Greatly to our surprise there were about twenty 

90 



AUSTRALIAN EXPERIENCES . 91 

one-armed natives there, all treading water, and 
each calling out loudly that he had done the trick 
and demanding to be paid. 

For a few moments we were utterly at a loss. 
Then the real one-armed chap bobbed up, and the 
rest swam away, using both arms. 

They had been holding one arm behind them, 
and in the water, against their black skins, it was 
invisible to us. 

On the Orient boats, both the first and second- 
class passengers dined a la carte, a gastronomic 
system the advantages of which have always 
appealed to me. I returned by the P. & O. liner 
Moldavia, and on these boats, so far as regards 
the second-class passengers at all events, we dined 
on the table d'hote principle. This entailed a good 
deal of waiting between the courses, while if one 
desired to miss, say, the soup, or the fish course, 
there was more delay. 

Some people are very quick eaters, some are 
very slow ; and our pace at dinner on the Moldavia 
was set by the slowest amongst us. I, being a 
quick eater, used to jib and fidget at this, and 
when we got to Colombo I hit upon an expedient 
that resulted in my at least getting a little bit of 
my own back. 

I should have mentioned that at dinner the 
serving of each course was ordered by the chief 
steward, a rather pompous and self-important 
individual, who used to ring a small gong bell 
when everybody had completely finished with, 
say, the soup course, as a signal to serve the fish, 
and so on throughout the meal. Well, while I was 
on shore in Colombo, I bought a small but very 
loud sounding gong bell, similar to the one used 
by the chief steward, and when we went on board 
again I fixed it underneath our table. 



92 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

Most of us there were in the secret of the joke, 
and so no offence was given, or any inconvenience 
caused to them, but I am very much afraid that 
the diners at the other tables were at all events 
considerably surprised when, half-way through 
the soup course, the bell suddenly sounded, and 
the waiters began handing round the fish. There- 
upon confusion reigned supreme. The chief 
steward insisted that he hadn't rang the bell. 
The waiters insisted that he had, and bore one 
another out. Shortly afterwards our bell sounded 
again, and at once the waiters started on the third 
course, before some of the passengers had hardly 
tasted their fish. Whereupon the chief steward 
seemed to go suddenly stark, staring, raving mad, 
rushing from one group of waiters to the other, 
storming, expostulating, threatening ; while we 
guilty ones, who were in the conspiracy, had hard 
work to prevent ourselves from exploding with 
suppressed laughter. 

I think it is Mark Twain, in his Innocents 
Abroad, who finds fault with the self-assertive- 
ness and bumptiousness that is so frequently 
characteristic of a certain type of ship's officer. 
I have noticed the same thing myself. On the 
Ortona, for instance, on the way out, I myself got 
into very hot water owing to my resenting what 
I chose to regard as a piece of unwarrantable 
impertinence on the part of the master-at-arms. 

This individual is, of course, the chief of police 
on ship-board, and is endowed with a considerable 
amount of authority, being answerable to the 
captain only. Amongst his duties he has to see 
that the lights are turned out in the public rooms 
at certain fixed hours, and to this no one can 
reasonably take exception, provided it is done 
with a due regard to the convenience of passengers 



AUSTRALIAN EXPERIENCES 93 

and not in an offensive or irritating manner. For, 
after all, passengers even second-class ones — 
have some rights on board ship. They pay their 
fares, and are entitled to at least a modicum of 
courtesy and consideration. 

The trouble on the Ortona began in the smoke- 
room at ten o'clock one night. A game of poker 
was in progress, and there was a " Jack Pot " on 
the table with a considerable amount of money in 
it, when the master-at-arms entered, and without 
saying so much as " By your leave, gentlemen,' ' 
without in fact uttering a word, turned out the 
light, leaving us in total darkness. 

Naturally this made us mad, and as soon as he 
had gone, I got up and switched the light on 
again. Whereupon the master-at-arms returned, 
and, using a very foul expression, turned the light 
out for the second time, and this time finally, 
locking the switch in such fashion that we could 
not use it. 

Amongst the second-class passengers were a 
score or so of hefty lads going out to Australia to 
try their luck there, and they resented the action 
of the ship's officer as strongly as I did. Between 
us we made up our minds to pay him out. 

And we did. For several days and nights on 
end we made the poor man's life a misery to him. 
Going down the Red Sea the heat was terrific, and 
everybody nearly — not even excluding the ladies 
— slept on deck ; although, of course, the fair sex 
were screened off. This was our opportunity. 
The master-at-arms, going his rounds at night, 
used to find himself lassooed by mysterious ropes 
that issued he knew not whence, and vanished he 
knew not whither. Cords stretched taut across 
gangways where no cords by rights ought to have 
been, tripped him unawares. Once he was greeted 



94 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

with a fusillade of raw potatoes ; big, round, hard 
potatoes that bruised him black and blue. 

Then, when we thought that possibly he had 
learnt his lesson, we let up on him for a couple of 
days, and allowed him to see that we were willing 
to call a truce, if he was. But no ! He was as 
bumptious and as disagreeable as ever ; more so, 
in fact, and sought every opportunity he could 
to annoy and molest us. So we held a cabinet 
council, and decided unanimously that the situa- 
tion called for a resumption of hostilities. 

That afternoon, as luck would have it, I was 
walking on the afterpart of the boat, when I 
spotted a partly open skylight, and peeping down 
I saw our hated enemy lying below in his bunk 
fast asleep, his mouth wide open and his face 
turned skywards. This I concluded was too good 
a chance to be missed, so calling the others 
together I hastily informed them of my discovery, 
and together we concerted a plan of action. 

In a few minutes we knew that the bell would 
ring for tea, and that then there would be nobody 
about on deck. This was our opportunity. Twelve 
of us hurried below to our respective cabins, and 
returned with a full glass of water apiece, care- 
fully hidden about our clothing ; then, when the 
bell rang, we lifted the skylight and emptied all 
twelve glasses simultaneously through the open 
space, and on to the sleeper reposing peacefully 
below. 

There followed a terrific spluttering and gurgling, 
and an angry roar from the bunk. But we did not 
wait. Each man made a bee-line for his cabin, and 
deposited the empty tumbler where it belonged, 
after which we quietly filed into the tea-room and 
settled ourselves down at table as if nothing had 
happened. 



AUSTRALIAN EXPERIENCES 95 

Somehow or other, however, the master-at-arms 
must have guessed that I was the ringleader in the 
plot, for half an hour later I was approached by 
one of the officers. 

" Mr. Carlton/' he remarked, in quiet, matter-of- 
fact tones, " the captain sends his compliments, 
and he wants to speak to you in his cabin on the 
first-class upper deck." 

" Very kind of him I am sure to desire to make 
my acquaintance," I replied suavely. ' But the 
desire is not reciprocated. Go and tell the 
captain so." 

Another thirty minutes or so went by. Then 
the first officer, accompanied by two others, 
marched up to me. " Mr. Carlton," remarked 
the spokesman of the deputation, " the captain 
desires to see you on the first-class upper deck." 

" So I've heard," I remarked in assumedly 
bored tones. " But Fve already explained that I 
don't wish to see the captain. And anyhow, if he 
wants to speak to me, I'm here. He knows where 
to find me. Let him come down to me. Certainly 
I'm not going up to him." 

At this they began to turn nasty, explaining to 
me that the captain was a magistrate on board his 
own ship, and that his expressed wishes must be 
taken as being in the nature of commands, to be 
obeyed implicitly and without question. 

" Now are you coming, or are you not ? " they 
concluded. 

" No," I repeated doggedly, " I'm not." 

" Then," they said, " we shall have to use force, 
and take you." 

" Well," I remarked, pointing to the others, 
who had by this time come crowding round, " there 
are about twenty of us in it. If one goes, the lot 
goes. You'll have to carry us. It takes at least 



96 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

four men to carry a resisting man against his will. 
That means that you will be obliged to summon 
certainly not less than eighty sailors to do the job 
properly. Meanwhile, I suppose, the navigation 
of the ship can go hang/' 

They got angrier than ever at this, but judged 
it wiser, apparently, to make no attempt to molest 
us, contenting themselves with going off and 
reporting the matter to the captain. The rest of 
the day passed uneventfully, somewhat to our 
surprise, and when the best part of the following 
morning had elapsed without anything untoward 
happening, we began to think that we had won 
hands down. 

Towards midday, however, being by then 
lulled into a false sense of security and completely 
off my guard, I went as usual to the barber's shop 
to get a shave. This necessitated my going down 
to the first-class part of the ship, a fact of which 
the enemy was, of course, perfectly well aware. 

It was the opportunity they had been waiting 
for. I had hardly settled myself comfortably in 
the chair, and the barber had just started to lather 
me, when no fewer than four of the ship's officers 
appeared at the open door. 

" When youVe finished your shave, Mr. Carl- 
ton,/ ' said their leader, " the captain wishes to 
speak to you on the first-class upper deck." 

Now, thought I, they've got me, but at the same 
time I made up my mind to stave off the evil 
moment as long as possible. If only one or two 
of the others would take it into their heads to 
come down to the shop ? But no ! Not a soul 
came near the place. And all the while the four 
stood guard outside, completely cutting off my 
escape. 

I had a shave. Then I had a hair cut and a 



AUSTRALIAN EXPERIENCES 97 

shampoo. I had my nails manicured. I bought 
shirts and collars, of which the barber kept an 
assortment in stock for the convenience of 
passengers. I purchased curios, and picture post- 
cards, spending as much time as possible over 
examining them and choosing them. But still 
nobody from our part of the ship came down that 
way, and in the end I had to come out alone and 
face the music. 

" Well," exclaimed the leader of the gang, as 
they closed round me, " are you coming ? " 

" No, I'm not," I replied ; and as they made a 
grab for me, I threw myself flat on the deck, and 
let out a yell like a hyena. 

" Help ! Help ! " I shouted. " Help ! Murder ! 
Help ! " 

Instantly the ship was in an uproar. Passengers 
and sailors came running from all directions. But 
the master-at-arms had taken up a strategic 
position at the top of the staircase leading down 
from the second-class part of the ship, and none of 
my friends were able to pass him, and come to my 
assistance. 

Single-handed, of course, I could do nothing. 
They frog-marched me up on to the upper deck, 
and deposited me panting and perspiring before 
the captain in his cabin. 

I have never seen an angrier man than he was. 
He literally boiled over with rage, and for ten 
minutes he told me off as hard as he could. In the 
end, however, he was obliged to stop owing to 
want of breath. 

Then it was my turn. I asked him how he dared 
to treat me in such a manner ? What had I done 
to deserve it ? 

" You know very well," he shouted in reply. 
" You threw water over the master-at-arms." 

H 



98 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

" How do you know ? " I asked. " You were 
not there." 

" Silence ! " he roared. " 111 have you put in 
irons." 

" How many sets of irons have you got ? " I 
inquired. 

" Oh ! About six," was his reply. 

" Youll want more than that," I said. " There 
are about twenty of us in it, all big, hefty chaps. 
We've sworn to stand by one another. Besides," 
I added soothingly, " I don't think it will look 
very well in the papers, or do you any good with 
your employers, when it comes to be published 
broadcast that you could not maintain discipline 
aboard your own ship without putting half your 
passengers in irons." 

" But," he spluttered, " this is rank mutiny. 
Ill put you ashore at the first port of call." 

" Where's that ? " I asked. 

" Fremantle," he replied. 

" Well," I retorted, " even if you do, I shan't 
cry about it. I suppose I can take a train to 
Melbourne." 

" Then you suppose wrong," he snapped. 
" There is no railway communication whatever 
between the two places." 

All this while the other officers had been 
standing respectfully at attention, waiting further 
instructions. The captain now sent them away, 
and closed the door. 

" Take a seat, Mr. Carlton," he said. 

I sat down, wondering what was coming next. 

" Have a drink ? " he inquired, producing a 
decanter of whisky and a syphon of soda. 

" Now you're talking," I said ; and we both 
laughed. 

This was the end of the bother. And not only 



AUSTRALIAN EXPERIENCES 99 

that. Next day the captain came and had dinner 
with us in the second-class saloon, a thing he had 
never done before ; and we, not to be outdone in 
generosity, gave a benefit show, half the proceeds 
of which went to the Seaman's Orphanage, the 
other half going to the Music-hall Benevolent 
Fund. 

I should add that I had previously explained to 
the captain during the latter part of our interview 
in his cabin, exactly how the bother began ; and 
he agreed with me that, although we might have 
been to blame in regard to the method of our 
reprisals, the master-at-arms had only himself to 
thank for the trouble he had brought down on his 
head, since for him to have used the exceedingly 
foul expression he did towards us on so very 
trifling a provocation was absolutely inexcusable. 

By the way, while on the subject of disagreeable 
officials, there used to be a certain ticket-inspector 
at Waterloo Station who was very particular in 
regard to clipping each passenger's ticket, and 
once or twice he made me lose my train while I 
was searching for mine in various pockets. 

So one day I decided that I would get even with 
him, and I placed a penny under my ticket, 
holding it in such a way that the coin was invisible 
to him. 

I shall never forget the surprised look on the 
man's face when he found that his nippers refused 
to clip my ticket. Try it yourself. Anybody can 
do it. It is not necessary to be a professional 
conjuror. 

On my arrival at Melbourne I found everybody 
there singing a song the melody of which was 
exceedingly catchy, and the words of which 
concerned themselves with various Australian 
notables, portraits of whom used to be thrown on 



ioo TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

a big screen at the Opera House while the song 
was being sung on the stage by the artiste. One 
verse of this topical ditty ran as follows : 

Australia ! Australia ! She has her champions too. 

There's old Bill Squires, and Georgie Towns, 

They've shown what they can do. 

In ev'ry land, in ev'ry clime, 

She's kept her flag unfurled. 

Now, Australia can hold her own 

With the wide, wide world. 

Squires, I should explain, was the champion 
heavy-weight of Australia. He had beaten every- 
body there. Not one could stand up against him. 
And Australia, and the people of Melbourne more 
especially, were awfully proud of him in conse- 
quence. George Towns was, of course, the 
champion sculler of the world, and also an 
Australian. 

Well, as luck would have it, the latter was 
beaten just about this time by Dick Arnst, the 
New Zealander ; and the very same week, I am 
not certain that it was not the very same day, 
Squires was knocked out in one round in America 
by Tommy Burns. (The Australian was knocked 
senseless by almost the first real punch delivered 
by Burns in the first round, and did not come to for 
half an hour or so. Then, seeing all the people 
going home, he concluded he had won, and his 
first words were : " Well, what do you think 
of your bloomin' champion now ? ") This double 
disappointment greatly upset the Melbourne 
people. It also completely spoilt the song, which 
had to be withdrawn, much to the disgust of 
Harry Rickards, the manager of the Opera House. 

Afterwards, just for a lark, I used to go into a 
hotel bar known as " Under the Earth," situated 
in Burke Street, and a favourite resort of the 



AUSTRALIAN EXPERIENCES 101 

sporting element of Melbourne, and start to hum 
over the song and words to myself. This always 
led to a scene. " Go home, you long slab of 
misery," they would yell in unison. " Who do you 
think you're taking a rise out of ? " " Why, 
what's the matter ? ' I would ask, in assumed 
surprise. " Can't a man sing what song he likes in 
this God-forsaken country ? " Sometimes some 
of the boys there who didn't know me very well 
began to get really angry, but before things went 
too far I always made it plain that it was only 
meant for a harmless bit of " kid " on my part, 
and a hearty laugh and " drinks round " soon 
caused peace and harmony to reign once more. 

Nevertheless, some of the " boys " felt suffi- 
ciently sore about it to want to get even with me, 
so they invited me to go rabbit shooting. This is 
a joke that is frequently worked off on a " new 
chum," rabbits out there being looked upon as 
vermin. Nobody dreams of shooting them, for 
sport at all events. 

But I, of course, knew nothing of all this. I 
thought it awfully kind of them, and accepted the 
offer with alacrity. We motored out into the bush 
on Saturday night after my show, slept in the car, 
and when day dawned I found myself surrounded 
by millions of rabbits. They covered the earth 
to the horizon as far as the eye could reach ; they 
were gathered in myriads against the wire fences ; 
the car had even run over quite a number of 
them. And so tame were they, I was able to kick 
them out of my way. I never saw such a sight 
before, or imagined any such ; no, not in my 
wildest dreams. The other members of the party 
were in fits of laughter. " Go on ! " they cried. 
" Have a shot. See if you can hit one." 

Of course to shoot them was not sport, in the 



102 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

sense that we in England understand the word. 
Nevertheless I killed half a dozen or so. I 
couldn't help it. Then I wandered away from 
my companions into the bush, looking for some- 
thing else to shoot that would be really worth 
while. 

Presently I heard a loud " Ha ! Ha ! Ha ! " 
from somewhere behind me. I wheeled quickly 
but could see no one. " Some of the boys having 
a lark with me," I thought, and walked wearily 
on in the direction whence the sound had seemed 
to come. 

Presently another peal of loud laughter rang 
out, this time from the bush away off on my right 
rear. Again I wheeled, and was just in time to 
catch sight of a bird, about the size of a magpie, 
flitting from one gum tree to another, and from 
whose throat the sound had evidently emanated. 

I knew then at once what it was, for I had often 
heard the bird described. The laughing jackass, 
a big kind of kingfisher peculiar to Australia ! 
It is also known as the cuckaburro, which is 
probably a corrupt native rendering of the name 
bestowed upon the bird by the early voyagers 
from Spain, " burro " being, of course, the 
colloquial Spanish for " donkey." Yet another 
name for it amongst Australian backwoodsmen is 
the " settler's clock," because it invariably starts 
to utter its peculiar gurgling laugh precisely at 
dawn and dusk each day. 

These birds, by the way, are strictly preserved, 
it being forbidden to kill them under heavy 
penalties. One reason for this is that they kill 
the snakes, which are the pest of the farmers out 
there. This feat the bird performs by darting upon 
the reptile and carrying it aloft in its talons, after- 
wards dropping it on the ground from a consider- 



AUSTRALIAN EXPERIENCES 103 

able height. It then flies clown and pecks out the 
snake's eyes, leaving it, if not already dead, to 
perish miserably. 

But unfortunately I was not aware of this, and 
I followed the bird up some distance, and eventu- 
ally shot it. Possibly I should not have been so 
keen on getting it, for there was nothing strikingly 
remarkable about it, but for the fact that the 
wretched thing seemed to my excited imagination 
to be bent upon mocking me with its irritating 
raucous laugh. Every time I got within range, 
and raised my gun to my shoulder, he would emit 
another loud " Ha ! ha ! ha ! " and fly off to 
another tree. 

These tactics he repeated perhaps a dozen times, 
and when at last, hot, angry, and thirsty, I 
succeeded in bagging him, he had led me such a 
dance that I had not the remotest idea where I 
was, or in which direction to seek the other 
members of the party. I was, in fact, bushed ; 
and wild visions of my fate if I did not succeed in 
attracting the attention of my friends rushed into 
my throbbing brain. 

In vain I " cooeed," and fired off my gun again 
and again. There was neither answering shout, 
nor shot, nor any sign of human life or habitation ; 
only all around and about me the waterless, food- 
less, shadeless bush. I was beginning to get really 
frightened, for I had fired away my last cartridge, 
when greatly to my relief I heard in the far 
distance a faint call, and by " cooee-ing " back, 
and following the answering sounds, I was at 
length able to rejoin my friends. 

But there was more trouble awaiting me. In 
shooting the laughing jackass I had committed 
a crime in the eyes of the Australian sporting 
people, akin to that perpetrated by a man over 



104 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

here who has the temerity to shoot a fox, and 
when I returned to Melbourne and emptied my 
bag proudly on the floor of the " Under the 
Earth " bar, consternation reigned supreme. My 
' crime " was explained to me in language more 
forcible than polite. The rabbits I had shot, and 
which by this time were exceedingly odoriferous, 
were the cause of much merriment. I had also 
shot two or three rosella parrots, and these were 
passed round, and duly admired. But the laugh- 
ing jackass was quite another matter. 

However, in the end, Mrs. Hill, the genial 
proprietress of the establishment, consented to 
smuggle it over the bar, and even went to the 
length, after a lot of persuasion, of promising to 
have it stuffed for me. This, I may add, she did, 
and I have the bird now. But the affair got talked 
about, and in the end I was summoned before the 
magistrate for my breach of the Australian game 
laws. 

" Why did you shoot the bird ? " asked the 
" beak " sternly. 

" Because he laughed at me," I answered on the 
impulse of the moment. 

At this the Court roared, and the magistrate 
inquired blandly whether I wasn't used to being 
laughed at ? " Would you shoot me if I laughed 
at you ? " he said, with a twinkle in his eye. 

I knew then that I was all right, and was 
immensely relieved, for I had visions of a heavy fine 
staring me in the face, or even possibly a term in 
the local gaol. In the end I was fined ten shillings 
and the costs, and I of course paid up cheerfully, 
glad to have been let down so lightly ; and glad 
also, for probably the first and last time in my life, 
at having " got the bird." 

Speaking of birds reminds me that just before 



AUSTRALIAN EXPERIENCES 105 

leaving Australia I bought a talking parrot from a 
dealer. 

I was strolling through a turning off Burke 
Street, Melbourne, when my attention was par- 
ticularly drawn to the bird owing to hearing it 
repeat two or three times, " Marie ! Marie ! 
I love Marie ! " 

Now Marie happens to be my wife's name, and 
it at once occurred to me that it would please her 
very much indeed if I took the parrot home, 
and when I presented it to her explained to her 
how I had caught it in the bush, and toiled hard 
through many weary weeks to teach it to speak 
these beautiful words, always present of course 
in my own mind — " I love Marie." 

I bought the parrot fairly cheap, the dealer 
explaining that it spoke no other words. This, I 
reflected, suited me admirably, and I bore my 
prize away in triumph, inclosed in a handsome 
cage. 

Directly we embarked for home I gave the 
parrot in charge of the butcher, telling him to look 
after it well, and promising to tip him a sovereign 
for his trouble when we arrived at Southampton. 
During the voyage I didn't bother much about my 
purchase, beyond inquiring now and again as to 
the bird's welfare. 

The day before we were due to reach England, 
however, I went down to have a good look at it. 
Imagine my horror when I was greeted by it 
(in addition to its stock phrase " I love Marie ") 
with a perfect flood of the most awfully profane 
language it is possible to conceive. 

The wretched bird simply turned the air blue 
with a string of full-blooded sailormen's oaths, 
coupled with certain other phrases that, besides 
being profane, were shockingly indecent. **< 






io6 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

Naturally I was furiously angry, but the 
butcher vehemently protested that he was not to 
blame. The deck hands and stokers, he explained, 
were constantly at the bird, teaching it all manner 
of bad language while his back was turned. 

Of course, to introduce the now hopelessly 
depraved parrot into a decent household was 
altogether out of the question, and in the end I 
turned bird and cage over to the butcher in lieu 
of the promised tip ; an arrangement, I may add, 
with which he was well content. 



CHAPTER VIII 

MELBOURNE TO LONDON 

The " Under the Earth " bar in Melbourne — A swimming chal- 
lenge spoof — The Australian Vaudeville Association — My 
connection therewith — They present me with an Address — 
At Adelaide — A cheery send-off — I bring to London with me 
Charlie Griffin, the feather-weight Australian champion — 
Fix up a match at the London National Sporting Club — I train 
him myself during a pantomime engagement — He is beaten 
by Jim Driscoll — But afterwards defeats Joe Bowker — My 
fight at the National Sporting Club with " Apollo " — All the 
" pro.'s " present — A great night — I am beaten by " Apollo " 
— Congratulations all round — Only Mrs. " Carlton " does 
not approve — Other boxing and sporting yarns. 

OUR Australian cousins are fine sports- 
men, and they dearly love a joke, even 
if it is against themselves. When I was 
performing in Melbourne in 1907 I became very 
chummy with Jack Trenby, at that time one of 
the best-known jockeys in Australia, and one day 
we got talking about swimming. I told him that I 
rather fancied myself that way, and that I used 
to swim the hundred yards in sixty-four seconds 
in the days when the record for the English 
Championship (held by J. H. Darbyshire) was 
only one-fifth of a second under the sixty-one 
seconds. 

" Good ! " cried Trenby. " There's a chap here 
named Murphy who thinks he can swim. We'll 
have a lark with him, and unless I'm greatly 
mistaken we'll rope in a few others of the ' wide 
ones ' into the bargain." 

In those days — it may be so now for aught I 

107 



io8 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

know — the sporting element in Melbourne were 
wont to meet together in the hotel bar known 
as " Under the Earth/' situated in Burke Street, 
mention of which has been made in the previous 
chapter. A lot of us used to go swimming in the 
public baths every morning, and foregather here 
for a livener and a chat afterwards. 

Well, for a whole week I went swimming with 
the rest, and, acting under Trenby's instructions, 
I made no end of an exhibition of myself ; diving 
in awkwardly flat on my stomach, and panting 
and splashing and puffing and blowing after I was 
in, like a maimed grampus. All the while, how- 
ever, I pretended to think I was getting on 
famously, and one day when we were all enjoying 
our drinks in the " Under the Earth " bar Jack 
purposely switched the conversation on to 
swimming, and referred somewhat slightingly to 
my efforts in that direction. 

Thereupon I pretended to get huffed, and offered 
to swim Murphy the length of the public bath and 
back again for a five-pound note. 

Murphy snapped at the bet like a hungry dog 
at a bone, and every " bookie " there, and nearly 
every other man in the bar, rushed at me with 
their money, imploring me to raise my stakes and 
let them in. Jack Trenby, I may add, was 
loudest of all in asking to be given a chance to 
win my money, and although he must inwardly 
have been bursting with laughter, he never showed 
a trace of it on his countenance. 

At first I feigned reluctance, but in the end I 
accepted their bets up to a total of £50, and the 
money was put up with Mrs. Hill, the proprietress 
of the hotel, the race being timed to come off at 
eleven o'clock on the following morning. After a 
little while, however, I pretended that I was only 



MELBOURNE TO LONDON 109 

bluffing, and wanted to call the bets off. " You 
know, boys," I said, " that I'm no swimmer. 
You've all seen me at the baths. I'm only a 
novice. I was just swanking. Tell you what I'll 
do ! Call the bets off, and I'll set up wine for 
the crowd." 

But they only laughed, and told me that I had 
asked for it, and that I had got to go through with 
it. They, of course, thought that the £50 was as 
good as won. 

Then, after a while, I changed my cue, and told 
them the truth. " Look here, boys," I said, 
" I've been kidding }^ou all for over a week. Take 
my tip and call the bets off. I'll show you in the 
morning how easily I can beat Murphy, and for 
nothing. Why, I can swim the hundred yards 
within a second or two of the record time. I only 
wanted to show you all how easily I could have 
you. I don't want your money." 

But no ! They wouldn't have it at any price. 
Not a man there, barring of course Jack Trenby, 
but imagined that I was bluffing, and though I 
went up to each one separately and offered to 
call his individual bet off, not one would agree 
to it. 

Next morning all sporting Melbourne was at the 
baths. The Press, too, was represented. Murphy 
had seen to that. 

We stripped, and then, turning to the crowd, 
I made a last appeal. 

" Boys," I cried, " I'm going to win — sure. 
Will you call all bets off ? " 

" No ! " roared everybody in unison ; and in we 
plunged. 

Well, I beat Murphy by half a length, and 
everybody crowded round me, wanting to shake 
hands, and patted me on the back, saying that 



no TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

it was one of the smartest things ever done in 
Melbourne. And I dressed, and the crowd 
escorted me to the White Hart Hotel, where I 
spent my winnings, or the major part of them at 
all events, on a dinner for the boys. Alf Squires, 
who is now the proprietor of the Colonial Bar, 
Savoy Street, Strand, was the landlord of the 
" White Hart " at the time, and he did us well and 
no mistake about it. 

It was while I was in Melbourne during this 
tour that I was instrumental in founding the 
Australian Vaudeville Association, now a large 
and flourishing organisation, and on my departure 
they presented me with an illuminated address on 
vellum, with the following inscription : " Pre- 
sented to Arthur Carlton. Sir — We the under- 
signed members of the Committee of the New 
South Wales branch of the Australian Vaudeville 
Association convey to you our sincerest thanks 
and hearty appreciation for your untiring efforts 
and valuable assistance to us in our infancy. We 
extend to you the glad hand of fellowship, and 
deeply regret your departure from Australia. No 
pen can describe how grateful we feel for the 
valuable services you at all times have rendered 
us, often at great personal inconvenience. You 
have paved the way for a bright and glorious 
future for our young association. You leave our 
native land with the good wishes of every true 
artist here. In conclusion we trust that your 
sojourn amongst us has been a pleasant one, and 
we sincerely hope you will at no distant date pay 
us another visit, for though thousands of miles 
may separate us we will always keep you in 
memory. With every good wish for your future 
health and prosperity, we beg to remain." 

Then followed the signatures of a large number 



MELBOURNE TO LONDON in 

of prominent men in the Profession, all of whom 
I am proud to call my friends. I was very pleased 
and touched at the reception of this quite un- 
expected testimonial, and equally so by the fact 
that when I quitted Adelaide, en route for 
England, the famous " Besses o' th' Barn " band 
came down to the quay, with their instruments 
carefully hidden under their coats, and, as the 
ship made ready to cast off, struck up the air 
" For he's a jolly good fellow.' ' 

While in Melbourne on this occasion I met 
Charlie Griffin, the feather-weight champion of 
Australia, and brought him to London, where I 
arranged with Mr. " Peggy " Bettinson, of the 
National Sporting Club, London, to match him 
there against Jim Driscoll for £200 a side and the 
feather-weight championship of the world. I 
trained him personally myself in Edinburgh 
during my pantomime engagement there, and 
seconded him in the ring, with the assistance of 
the famous Tommy Burns, then heavy-weight 
champion of the world. He put up a good fight, 
and looked like winning, but greatly to my dis- 
appointment he was disqualified in the fifteenth 
round for a foul. However, a little later on, I 
matched him against Joe Bowker, the ex-bantam- 
weight champion of the world, for £100 a side 
and the club purse ; and this fight Griffin won, 
knocking Bowker out — for the first time in his 
life — in the ninth round. 

Th is leads me up to my own fight at the National 
Sporting Club, which came off on May 4th, 1914. 
The beginning of it was this way. Mr. Walter (now 
Sir Walter) de Frece (husband of Miss Vesta 
Tilley), and one of the Committee of the N.S.C., 
is well known in the profession for his love of a 
joke ; and one day, knowing that I rather fancied 



H2 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

myself as a fairly good amateur boxer, he offered 
to put up a silver cup, value 25 guineas, if I would 
box Mr. William Bankier, better known by 
his stage title of " Apollo, " the Ideal Scottish 
Athlete. 

No doubt Mr. de Frece counted on my declin- 
ing, for Apollo was supposed to be at that time 
probably the best all-round athlete in the world. 
His strength was prodigious. He will be remem- 
bered by patrons of the music-halls as the man 
who used to have placed upon the stage, as an item 
of his performance, an enormous sack of flour. 
This he used to challenge anyone in the audience 
to remove, offering £50 to whoever succeeded. 
Nobody ever did, although many tried, but at the 
end of each performance Apollo would lift it, and 
carry it off the stage, apparently with the most 
perfect ease. 

When I add to this that his weight in training 
was 15 st. 10 lb. as against my 11 st. 10 lb., and that 
he is all brawn, bone, and muscle, the reader will 
be able to appreciate that in tackling him I was 
up against a pretty tough proposition. In fact, as 
I have already intimated, Mr. de Frece made 
his offer originally more by way of a joke than 
anything else, and he was considerably surprised 
when I took it on, merely stipulating that the 
club purse should, no matter which of us won, 
be given to the Music-hall Artists' Benevolent 
Fund, the cup of course going to the victor. To 
this, Apollo, like the good sportsman he is, at 
once agreed. 

The weights were announced by Mr. Bettinson 
as follows : " Apollo, the Ideal Athlete, 15 st. 
10 lb. ; Carlton, the Human Hairpin, 11 st. 
10 lb." My opponent had for his seconds Charlie 
Mitchell, ex-heavy-weight champion of England, 



MELBOURNE TO LONDON 113 

and Jake Hyams. In my corner were Jim 
Driscoll, the feather-weight champion of the 
world, Dai Dollings, and the club's second. 

The battle looked like being over before it 
had properly begun. I had thought that my 
opponent would have sparred for an opening. 
Instead, however, directly the gong sounded for 
the start he rushed across the ring like a mad 
bull, and landed me a terrific punch under the 
heart. 

Down I went, and I knew no more until I heard 
" nine " counted, and realised that I had to 
struggle to my feet before the fatal " ten." I did 
it, but that was about all ; and how I managed to 
last out the round I don't know to this day. I 
dragged myself to my corner at the end of it 
feeling more dead than alive, and the sixty seconds 
that elapsed before the gong sounded for us to 
begin again seemed the shortest minute I ever 
spent in my life. 

Curiously enough, though, once I was on my 
feet for the second round I felt much better. 
I watched carefully that Apollo did not again 
get in a blow under my heart, and about half-way 
through the round I managed to split his lip with 
a lovely straight left. This made him wild, and he 
forced the pace, using all his weight, but did me 
very little further damage, although I felt pretty 
tired by the end of the round. 

Driscoll bucked me up during the interval, 
telling me that I was winning easily on points, 
which was the truth. 

He also made me promise that in the next 
round I would give Apollo an opening, and 
wait until he led a straight left. Then I was 
to take a half step back, and counter with my 
right. 



H4 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

This was all right in theory, but in practice, in 
my case at all events, it didn't work " worth a 
cent," as our American cousins would say. I did 
my best from the moment when I stood up for the 
third round to do as I had promised, but Apollo 
seemed to know all about it, for I got a terrible 
pasting waiting for the straight left that never 
came. Being so tall and thin, I caught the 
majority of his punches on my shoulders and 
arms, and mighty glad I was when the round 
ended. 

Well, they massaged me in my corner, and 
Driscoll kept on saying, " He's bound to lead a 
straight left directly, then down he'll come, and, 
don't forget, the bigger they are the heavier they 
fall." I smiled rather sickly, for I was not so 
sure. 

Towards the end of the fourth round Apollo 
made another of his mad, tearing rushes at me, 
and this time he got me over the ropes. I am 
6 ft. 2 J in. tall, and the new, thin, wire-like rope 
cut me right across the small of the back. His 
whole weight was on top of me. I slid and 
slithered along the rope, scraping all the skin off 
the hollow of my back. It was like being flayed 
alive ; far worse than all the punching. 

This was practically the end of the fight. 
Almost directly afterwards Apollo shot out with 
his right, catching me full on the nose, a terrific 
punch, and down I went, covered in blood. 

My head hit the floor — whack. I saw stars. 
I also heard " stars " — the " pro.'s " applauding. 
But I was by no means " out." I heard the time- 
keeper counting. " One — two — three — four " — 
and so on ! 

All the while I was thinking what a mug's game 
it was ; so far, that is to say, as I was concerned. 




CARl.TON AND HIS TRAINER, DAI DOLLINGS, THE FAMOUS WELSH 
ATHLETE, STRIPPED READY FuR Ills FIGHT WITH Al'OI.LO 



MELBOURNE TO LONDON 115 

My hands were paining me terribly ; and they, 
I reflect ed, were my capital — my livelihood. I 
came to the conclusion then that I had done quite 
enough for one night for sweet charity's sake, and 
that the cup might go hang for all I cared. I had 
no money interest in the contest personally, be it 
remembered. So I stayed down for the fatal ten 
seconds ; when, of course, Apollo won. 

Then the cheering burst forth, and lots of 
people crowded round me, slapped me on the back, 
tried to shake me by the hand, and told me I had 
put up a regular game, plucky fight against a far 
heavier and stronger opponent. Amongst those 
foremost in congratulating me was Charlie 
Mitchell, Apollo's second. " By God, Carlton! " 
he cried ; " but I'm glad it's all over. Why, he 
might have killed you." 

When I went up to my dressing-room my 
seconds rubbed me down with embrocation, and 
after ten minutes' rest or so I felt all right ; but 
my left arm and shoulder were black and blue, 
and my nose didn't properly stop bleeding for 
three days afterwards. This, as I pointed out 
to my wife at intervals after I returned home, 
seemed a rather unusually long time. " Yes," 
replied she soothingly, " but then yours is an 
unusually long nose." Which was true, but not 
flattering. 

Women, however, I have long since discovered, 
are not sympathetic, except in the story books. 
When I reached home that same evening, for 
instance, not wishing to disappoint my wife I told 
her a fib. 

" Marie," I said, " I've won the fight." 

" You look it," she said, eyeing me stonily. 
Then added : " Where's the cup ? " 

I had forgotten for the moment all about this 



n6 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

item in the programme, and so had to tell another 
fib in order to cover up the first. 

" Somebody's pinched it," I said. " Tell you al 
about it in the morning. Just now I want to go 
to bed." 

I went. 

Next morning the pillow was red instead of 
white. 

But all the same I performed as usual that 
evening. 

I was once asked by Mr. " Peggy " Bettinson, 
the manager of the National Sporting Club, to 
box Jimmy Wilde, fly- weight champion of the 
world, on the occasion of a benefit performance 
in aid of the Music-hall Benevolent Fund. These 
sort of performances are not easy for the amateur, 
for most professional boxers hit hard even when 
they are not " out for blood," and on this occasion 
I had to let Wilde show his ability, while also 
letting the audience see that I too knew something, 
at all events, about boxing. 

Roars of laughter greeted our appearance in 
the ring, the contrast between me, standing 
6 ft. 2\ in., and the diminutive Wilde, who only 
stood 5 ft. 4 in. and weighed 7 st. 2 lb., being a 
striking one. And when we started off boxing, 
and I allowed Wilde, on his making to hit me, 
to run between my wide-opened legs, as under 
an arch, the merriment of the onlookers knew no 
bounds. 

One of my spoofs, however, very nearly mis- 
carried, and had it quite done so Wilde would have 
known it, for I can hit hard on occasion. It was 
during the third round. I had got him in a corner, 
and made up my mind to raise a good laugh. So, 
watching my opportunity, I put out my left arm 
in front of him, and upper cut with my right, my 




CARLETON AND JIMMY WILDE AT THE NATIONAL SPORTING CLUB 



MELBOURNE TO LONDON 117 

intention being that the blow should be delivered 
at least a yard wide, and that then I would look 
up into the air, as though pretending to wonder 
where he had gone to. 

This, I say, was my intention. But such was 
Wilde's marvellous, cat-like agility, that he, 
knowing nothing of what was in my mind, 
slipped from under my left, and bounded a full 
yard on one side, with the result that my blow, 
delivered with all my strength, actually grazed 
his ear. 

After it was all over " Peggy " Bettinson said to 
me, " Carlton, old man, you nearly caught him with 
that upper cut in the third round." " Yes/' 
I said, " I nearly did." But I never told " Peggy," 
or indeed anybody else, that I had really intended 
missing him by a yard. 

Another time I was asked to box with Jim 
Driscoll, the retired feather-weight champion of 
the world, for the Hero Boxers' Fund. The affair 
came off at the Middlesex Music-hall, and in order 
to raise a laugh I had arranged with my second 
to hand me a bottle of Bass to drink in the 
interval after the first round, to bring me a cigar 
to smoke in the second, and to squirt a syphon of 
soda water over me at the conclusion of the third 
round. 

These tactics certainly made the audience 
laugh. But the actual boxing was no laughing 
matter — for me. Driscoll hit hard and often, and 
at the finish I was pretty well done up. Seeing 
this, I suppose, somebody in the gallery called out 
for the referee's decision, whereupon Mr. Eugene 
Corri, who was acting in that capacity, stepped 
forward and gravely announced " Carlton is the 
winner." 

In this way I obtained a decision, given 



n8 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

publicly, over the feather-weight champion of 
the world, by the most famous referee in the 
world. 

This, again, caused a fresh outburst of laughter. 
But I was lying flat on my back in my dressing- 
room — gasping like a fish out of water. I lay like 
that for a full half-hour before I felt the slightest 
inclination to rise. While I was thus prone, a 
friend entered to condole with me. " Why didn't 
you stop his blows ? " he asked. " I did," I 
gasped. " Anyway, I didn't see any go by." 

By the way, talking of Jimmy Wilde, the 
following true story concerning him occurs to me. 
Down in Wales, where he lives, they call him the 
" Tylorstown Terror," the " Mighty Atom," the 
" Giant Killer," and other similar awe-inspiring 
names indicative of his pugnacity and fearlessness. 
Nevertheless, it is an open secret in the district 
that there is one individual whom Jimmy stands 
in mortal dread of. This is his wife. 

His friends say that when he has been out late 
with the boys, on his return home he invariably 
throws his cap into the passage of his house before 
venturing within. If the cap comes flying out 
again, Jimmy doesn't go in that night. If it 
remains in the passage for an appreciable length 
of time, Jimmy follows it indoors. 

While on the subject of boxing I may mention 
that I have frequently been taken for Bombardier 
Wells, even in the National Sporting Club itself, 
where he is, of course, well known. This is due, 
I suppose, to us both being about the same build 
and height, with similar light-coloured curly hair. 
I once took advantage of this circumstance in 
order to extricate myself from a somewhat tight 
corner. 

When I was in Cumberland salmon fishing I 



MELBOURNE TO LONDON 119 

was invited by the captain of the Maryport patrol 
boat to accompany him on a cruise to the fishing 
grounds. These boats carry trawls in order to try 
for the best fishing grounds, and those on board 
are allowed to fish on the understanding that none 
of the catch is offered for sale, the surplus, after 
the crew have taken their pick, being distributed 
amongst the poor of Maryport. 

Well, we had quite good sport, and after landing 
I was proceeding towards my hotel with a string of 
fine fish — a present from the captain — which I 
intended dispatching that evening to my home in 
Surrey, where I knew they would be a welcome 
surprise to my wife and children. Very soon, 
however, I was surrounded by a hostile crowd, 
who demanded to know where I got the fish, and 
what I intended doing with them. 

I explained that I had been out with the patrol 
boat — of which fact the crowd was perfectly well 
aware — and that I intended the fish as a present 
for my wife and family. " Oh, no, you don't," 
exclaimed two or three voices. " These fish are 
for poor people ; not for stranger ' toffs ' like 
you/' 

In vain I tried to reason with the crowd. They 
became more and more aggressive, jostling me, 
and making one or two attempts to snatch the 
fish from my hand. Suddenly a happy thought 
struck me. Drawing myself up to my full height, 
I exclaimed : " Gentlemen, you don't know who 
I am." " No," they roared, " and we don't care. 
But we mean to have those fish." 

" Well, gentlemen," I continued, ' it's hard 
lines on me if you are not going to allow me to 
carry home fish. You all know me — by reputa- 
tion at all events. I'm Bombardier Wells." 

The effect of my announcement was magical. 



120 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

From open hostility the attitude of the crowd 
changed in a moment to almost embarrassing 
friendliness. They pressed round me closer than 
ever, patting me on the back and shaking me by 
the hand, and not another word was said about 
depriving me of my fish. 



CHAPTER IX 

SOME AMERICAN EXPERIENCES 

To New York on the Mauretania — Gambling on ocean liners — A 
" dear " old gentleman — Phenomenal luck — My suspicions 
are aroused — I play the part of a private detective — A 
puzzling proposition — The light that shone by night — My 
suspicions are confirmed — An artful dodge — A new use for 
smoke-coloured glasses — Doctored cards — The most beautiful 
American city — Los Angeles — Tuna-fishing at Santa Catalina 
— Monsters of 400-lb. weight — The Tuna Club — A record 
catch — Fishing with kites — Wild goat stalking — Outwitting 
a gambler — Diamond cut diamond — A ride on an ostrich — 
American police methods — An unpleasant experience. 

TRAVELLING to America on the Maure- 
tania some years back, I had a rather 
unusual experience. As most people 
are perfectly well aware, these crack trans- 
Atlantic liners are frequently infested by card- 
sharpers, who prey upon the unwary amongst 
the passengers, and often reap large harvests in 
ready cash as the result of their misdirected 
enterprise. 

I always, when travelling, make it a point to 
study these gentry, and as a rule it is no very 
difficult matter for me to detect their particular 
methods of swindling ; when, of course, I make 
it my business to quietly warn such others of the 
saloon passengers as may be in the habit of playing 
cards in the smoke-room. 

On this occasion, however, there was amongst 
the card-players one whose methods frankly 
puzzled me. He was a most benevolent-looking 
old chap, white-haired and bespectacled, very 

121 



122 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

pleasant and affable, and hail-fellow-well-met 
with everybody. Nevertheless there was some- 
thing about him that convinced me that he was a 
crook. 

His luck was simply marvellous. For three 
nights I watched him win with uncanny regu- 
larity ; yet, though I studied him closely all the 
while, following his every movement with my 
eyes, I could detect nothing wrong with his play. 
All the same, however, I became more and more 
convinced that I was not mistaken in my estimate 
of him. The man was a sharper, beyond the 
shadow of a doubt. I could tell by watching his 
play that he knew what cards the other players 
held. 

On the fourth evening, after play, during which 
he won as usual, the cards happened to be left 
behind on the smoke-room table. I quietly 
pocketed them, and took them down to my cabin, 
where I spent over an hour examining them one 
by one by the aid of a microscope. My labour 
was in vain. I could detect absolutely nothing 
wrong with the cards, which were those ordinarily 
sold on board ship at eightpence a pack. 

On the following night I again watched him 
closely, and was more than ever convinced that I 
was not mistaken. On this occasion poker was 
being played, and his winnings amounted to over 
£200. During the game one of the other players, 
either because his suspicions were aroused, or 
perhaps simply with the idea of changing his luck, 
ordered another pack of cards, and these were 
duly supplied by one of the stewards in the usual 
sealed package, which was opened by the man 
who ordered and paid for them. 

This, of course, seemed to do away entirely with 
any chance of his having been able to mark the 



SOME AMERICAN EXPERIENCES 123 

cards beforehand. Yet still he went on winning, 
and still I continued to watch him, like a cat 
watching a mouse. The sole result was that I was 
more puzzled than ever. The thing began to get 
on my nerves. Here was I a professional card- 
manipulator, a man who knew, or at all events 
thought he knew, every trick on the board ; and 
here was a man whom I knew in my mind to be 
a card-sharper, and yet I could not detect his 
method of swindling. It made me wild. 

The day before we got into New York he had 
another good night, by far the best he had had 
during the voyage. His luck was the talk of the 
ship. " Luck ! " said I to myself, and ground my 
teeth in rage to think how he had outwitted us all. 
He had not had any of my money, it was true. I 
had seen to that. But nevertheless I was furious 
to think I could not find out how the trick was 
worked. 

Again I secured possession of the cards he had 
been playing with, and again I examined them 
under the microscope in the quiet seclusion of my 
own cabin. I spread them out on my dressing- 
table, and sat there for a couple of hours or more, 
studying them, peering at them, fingering them 
back and front. The net result of it all was the 
same as on the previous occasion. I could detect 
nothing whatever wrong with them, and in the 
end I gave it up as a bad job, switched off the 
light, and tumbled into bed, leaving the pack of 
cards backs uppermost on the dressing-table. 

About four o'clock in the morning, and when 
it was still quite dark, I awoke, and had occasion 
to get out of my bunk. While on my feet, groping 
round for the electric light switch, I saw something 
sparkle on the dressing-table, and thinking it 
might be my diamond ring, I reached out my hand 



124 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

in order to pick it up. To my surprise it was not 
there. I switched on the light and the sparkle 
disappeared. Investigation showed me that my 
diamond ring was safe in a little covered box I 
used to keep my jewellery in. There was the usual 
litter of things on the dressing-table, but nothing, 
so far as I could see, that was at all likely to 
sparkle in the dark. 

Somewhat mystified, I switched the light off 
again, and at once the tiny twinkling point of fire 
flashed into being again. Then I knew. It 
emanated from the pack of cards ; from the top- 
most card, that was exposed back uppermost. 

Once more I switched the light on, and laid the 
cards out face downwards on the table. Then I 
switched it off again ; and the mystery stood 
revealed. Every single card was marked on the 
top right-hand corner on the back with a luminous 
substance, which I found out later was a patent 
preparation of phosphorous oil. 

The marks were only tiny dots the size of a 
pin-point, and each card was marked with two 
dots, no more and no less. The position of one 
dot indicated the suit, the position of the other the 
value of the card. The dots were arranged in 
positions corresponding with the figures on a 
watch-face. For instance, one dot placed where 
the big hand would be at half-past the hour, meant 
that the card was a six, another dot indicating the 
suit. Similarly if the dot was where the big hand 
would be at a quarter-past the hour, it meant that 
the card was a three, and so on. The knave and 
queen were eleven and twelve o'clock. The king, 
the thirteenth card, was shown by a dot placed in 
the centre where the hands meet. Looked at in 
the light, the tiny marks were quite invisible. 
They could only be seen in the dark — or by a 



SOME AMERICAN EXPERIENCES 125 

person looking at them through dark-coloured 
glasses. The old gentleman, I suddenly recol- 
lected, aways wore, when playing, spectacles of a 
peculiar smoky hue. 

One thing, however, still puzzled me ; and that 
was how the old rogue had obtained possession 
of the cards in order to mark them. I jumped 
to the conclusion in the beginning that he was 
probably in league with one of the under-stewards, 
who had access to the place where the packs for 
sale to the passengers were kept in stock. But 
this, I discovered later, was not so. What had 
happened was this : 

On the second day out the dear, affable, old 
gentleman had organised a whist drive for the 
ladies, himself providing the prizes, and had 
ordered in advance from the chief steward a dozen 
and a half packs of cards. Only eight of these 
were used, as he had easily foreseen, there being 
only eight tables. The ten unopened packs he had 
returned to the chief steward the next morning, 
with the remark that he had overestimated the 
number of players taking part in the drive. 

This much was clear. The rest I had to guess. 
But there was no difficulty, in my mind at all 
events, in supplying the missing links in the chain 
of evidence. He had had the twelve packs in his 
possession one whole night. What was easier than 
for him to steam them carefully open in the 
seclusion of his cabin, mark them with the 
phosphorous oil, and then re-seal them ? The 
chief steward would hardly be likely to examine 
the packs very critically when they were returned 
to him, and even if he had done so, he would not 
in all probability have been able to detect that 
they had been tampered with. 

Well, I felt pleased as Punch at having solved 



126 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

the riddle. The only question that agitated me 
now was whether I ought to expose the old rascal. 
I thought the matter over very carefully, and in 
the end I decided not to do so. For one thing, any 
action of that kind would quite possibly have led 
to his being arrested on his arrival at New York, 
and myself being detained there as a witness ; 
an eventuality which would not at all have 
suited my plans. For another thing, I reflected, 
the mischief was already done ; he could win no 
more money that voyage, seeing that this was our 
last day at sea. So I let him go, and I noticed 
that he was one of the first over the gangway when 
we arrived at New York. 

Later on I instituted a few discreet inquiries 
about the old gent from a New York detective 
whose acquaintance I made, but I could not get 
him to admit that he knew him, or even that he 
haled from New York at all. " He's probably a 
Chicago crook," he remarked. " There's a lot of 
snide gamblers make Chicago their headquarters." 

That's the Americans all over. They are 
awfully proud of their own particular city, and 
can never be got to admit that there is anything 
wrong with it. Almost the first question a 
stranger is invariably asked on his arrival in, say, 
New York, or Boston, or Philadelphia, is whether 
he doesn't consider New York, or Boston, or 
Philadelphia, as the case may be, the finest and 
most beautiful city he was ever in. 

For my part I always used to answer the 
questions in the affirmative, no matter where I 
might be, but my own private opinion is that 
Los Angeles is far and away the most beautiful 
of American cities. It was while I was performing 
there, by the way, that I had my first and only 
experience of tuna-fishing. This was at Santa 



SOME AMERICAN EXPERIENCES 127 

Catalina Island, which lies off the coast of Cali- 
fornia in the Pacific Ocean. 

The tuna is a gigantic mackerel, weighing any- 
thing from 80 lb. up to 400 lb., and even more, and 
is the strongest and gamest fish that swims. 
" When you go tuna-fishing/' I was told, " you 
must be prepared to hook something like a thirty- 
knot torpedo-boat." 

The favourite haunt of the tuna is the warm 
shallow water round Santa Catalina. He comes 
there after the flying-fish, which form his favourite 
food, and angling enthusiasts flock there in the 
season from all parts of the world in order to enjoy 
the sport of killing him. 

There are two species of tuna found at Santa 
Catalina, the blue-finned and the yellow-finned. 
The first -named is by far the bigger. I had to be 
content with the latter, as the blue-finned kind 
was not in evidence during my stay on the island. 
I regretted this greatly, for I was assured on all 
sides that to kill a genuine blue-finned leaping 
tuna with rod and line was something to be proud 
of — a feat to be remembered and talked about for 
the rest of one's life. 

This I can quite believe, judging by the stories 
I heard. I was told, for instance, of a new-comer 
on the island, a perfect novice at the game, who 
at his first attempt played a gigantic blue-finned 
tuna for five hours without assistance, and finally 
killed it. The youthful angler — he was little more 
than a boy — was taken ashore fainting, a finger- 
nail gone, a thumb dislocated, the palms of both 
hands skinned, blistered, and bleeding, and his 
strained arms rendered useless for days. But he 
was radiantly happy ; for he had qualified on his 
very first day for the Tuna Club — the blue riband 
of ocean angling. 



128 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

To become a member of this exclusive associa- 
tion the fisherman must catch and kill with 
unbroken rod a fish weighing not less than ioo lb. 
It need not, however, necessarily be a tuna. 
A barracouta will do, or an albicore, or a black 
bass. Some of these latter fish run up to 500 lb. 
(nearly a quarter of a ton) and are as fierce and 
game as tigers. I was told of one of 327 lb. weight 
that was played for seven and a half hours. At 
the end of that period it broke its captor's wrist 
by a sudden sidelong jump. A second angler then 
came to the rescue, and played it for another five 
and a half hours before killing it. 

As regards tuna, the record weight for one of 
these fish brought to boat by rod and line is, I was 
informed, 251Tb. But monsters of this size are 
comparatively rare, and still rarer is it for them 
to be captured after this fashion. To do so 
demands of the angler a combination of skill, 
strength, nerve, judgment, and several other 
qualities, plus any amount of dogged determina- 
tion and abnormal staying power. As illustra- 
ting my meaning I may mention that a former 
president of the Tuna Club, Mr. Charles F. Holder, 
had his boat towed ten miles by quite a moderate- 
sized fish (183 lb.) which fought gamely for hours 
on end, never sulking a minute. Another angler 
was dragged more than fourteen miles under 
similar circumstances, and had his arm broken into 
the bargain. 

None of these exciting experiences, I need 
scarcely say, came my way ; for, as I have already 
intimated, the big blue-finned tuna had not then 
arrived off the island, and I had to be content 
with trying my luck and skill on the smaller 
yellow-finned variety. With these, however, I 
was, so I was assured, quite unusually successful. 



SOME AMERICAN EXPERIENCES 129 

My partner and I between us killed altogether 
thirty-three fine fish in eight hours. Of these 
twenty-six were tuna, two rock bass, and five 
skipjack. 

This, I was told, constituted a record for 
novices, such as we were, and we had our catch 
photographed. I have a copy of the picture in 
my possession, with underneath it the following 
inscription : " Record catch of yellow-finned tuna 
by ' Carlton/ the English Magician, and Dr. 
Lartigau of San Francisco, aggregate weight 
350 lb., caught on 9-9 tackle in eight hours. 
Catalina Island, April 10th, 191 1. (Signed) P. V. 
Rogers, Official Photographer to the Tuna Club/' 

The day before this record catch I went out 
alone with a boatman, in order to get my hand in, 
so to speak. It was well I did so, for I discovered 
that tuna-fishing, like most other things in this 
world, wants some learning. I hooked my first 
fish all right, but after playing him for an hour or 
so I had to give up. My arms ached as though 
they were being wrenched from their sockets, and 
my hands were all blistered. Next day I wore 
gloves, and my boatman taught me that afternoon 
how to play a fish with my whole body, throwing 
it backwards and forwards as in rowing. 

The motor-boats that are used for tuna-fishing 
are, I should explain, fitted with sliding seats, 
like our racing craft here at home, and with 
leather holdfasts for the feet, and this makes it 
much easier to play a really big fish, once one has 
learnt the knack of it. I had also explained to me 
how to use the patent reel, with which the rods 
used in tuna-fishing are fitted, and w T hich only 
runs out at a certain pressure ; not freely, as in 
the case of an ordinary reel. 

I forgot to mention that the bait used for the 

K 



130 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

yellow-finned tuna is a sardine, that for his big 
blue-finned cousin being invariably a flying-fish. 
Both these tuna are the same species of fish, be it 
understood, but bearing about the same relation 
to one another in point of size as the trout does to a 
salmon. 

In angling for the big tuna a kite is sometimes 
used. This is flown over the sea, and attached to 
it is a line with a flying-fish (the bait) dangling at 
the end of it on or near the surface of the water. 
The motion of the kite, driven by the wind, causes 
the bait to bob up and down very much as does 
the live flying-fish, and the tuna leaps out of the 
sea after it just as a trout does after a fly. When 
the big fish swallows the baited hook he of course 
drags the kite down with him. 

Another curious feature in connection with 
Santa Catalina Island is that boats built with 
glass bottoms are in use there. This is done to 
give the visitor an opportunity of studying and 
admiring at his leisure the wonderful sea flora that 
everywhere carpets the comparatively shallow 
ocean floor in the immediate neighbourhood of 
the island. 

The beauty and variety of this latter must be 
seen to be believed. It seems almost a profana- 
tion to apply the hackneyed term of " seaweed " 
to these lovely forms of subaqueous tropical 
vegetation, although this, I suppose, is practically 
what they really are. Many of the species, how- 
ever, are as big as small trees, and all colours are 
represented, from brightest tints of green to vivid 
crimson, that in an instant pales to lavender, 
quivers to gold, or slips into molten ruby or 
sapphire as the angle of view alters. 

These wonderful undersea glades spring from 
a groundwork of coral no less beautifully tinted, 



SOME AMERICAN EXPERIENCES 131 

and spread about the interstices, and strewn 
thick on the patches of golden sand, are the most 
beautiful shells imaginable. On one of my trips 
out I took with me a professional diver, a half- 
breed Mexican Indian, and he went down several 
times, and brought me up a very fine collection of 
shells, corals, and so forth. I have most of them 
still, and they have been greatly admired. Hiding 
deep down amongst the coral and seaweed, too, 
one catches glimpses of many weird fishes that no 
angler has ever succeeded in catching. 

Altogether I was very pleased indeed with my 
experiences at lovely Santa Catalina, the tuna- 
fishing more particularly appealing to me greatly. 
As regards another form of sport that is peculiar 
to the island, however, I was somewhat dis- 
appointed. This was wild goat stalking, of which 
I had heard big things. The animals are supposed 
to have descended from some left there long ago 
by the old Spanish voyageurs, and were pictured 
to me as being very wild, shy, and difficult to 
approach. 

Naturally I concluded I would like to have a 
shot at one or more of them, especially as I was 
assured that it was quite the correct thing to do ; 
so a day was fixed, and I set off very early in the 
morning in quite high spirits. I was looking 
forward to something between a chamois hunt in 
the Swiss Alps and a day's deer-stalking amongst 
the Highlands of Scotland. Alas, how different 
was the reality from the expectation ! After 
riding on the backs of ponies along interminable 
mountain tracks, ascending higher and higher 
until we reached a region of utter sterility and 
barrenness, we at length came upon the goats — 
an entire herd of them. But they were not the 
least bit wild. On the contrary, they were quite 



132 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

disgustingly tame. They did not even attempt 
to run when I approached them, but stood stock- 
still and " baa-a-d." I thought of Tennyson's 
line about " catching the wild goat by the beard." 
It would have been a quite easy feat as regards 
these goats. 

To shoot them was, of course, quite out of the 
question. There was nothing for it but to retrace 
my footsteps to the lowlands whence I had come, 
which I accordingly did. My guide could not 
understand it. " So easy a shot ! " I heard him 
muttering to himself. " Such beautiful horns ! 
How splendid a trophy ! What a chance thrown 
away ! " 

Los Angeles is one of the most up-to-date 
places imaginable, with its blaze of electric lights, 
its scurrying tramcars and innumerable swift 
automobiles. So, too, of course is San Francisco, 
and most of the other big Californian cities and 
towns ; but some of the smaller mining camps 
up in the mountains are pretty rough. I once 
visited one of these which was known far and wide 
throughout the State as a " hard town," being in 
fact a regular Mecca for gamblers and others of the 
light-fingered gentry. 

While strolling round my attention was 
attracted by a leather-lunged individual who was 
appealing to a group of miners to the effect that he 
would bet he could cut the ace of spades, or any 
other card designated, in a pack which had been 
thoroughly shuffled by anyone. 

The interest was at fever heat, and the miners 
wagered freely on the outcome. Over ioo dollars 
were in fact lying on the table when I addressed 
the gambler saying : 

"I'D take ten dollars of that if you will let me 
shuffle the pasteboards." 



SOME AMERICAN EXPERIENCES 133 

' Why, certainly, stranger," he replied. " It's 
all the same to me." 

I placed the bet and shuffled the cards. 
' Now, gentlemen," said the gambler, laying 
the deck upon the table, " I win if I cut the ace of 
spades." 

So saying, he whipped out a huge knife, and 
with a mighty swing he cut the cards clean 
through. 

" Gentlemen," he yelled as he quickly scooped 
up the money, " the cash is mine as I cut the ace 
of spades." 

" Oh, no, you haven't," I cried. " I have the 
ace of spades." 

I had palmed it while shuffling the deck. 

" Say, stranger ! ' was the gambler's only 
comment. " I reckon that the feller as said that 
no man cud beat another at his own game was a 
gol-durned fool." 

While in Los Angeles I had my first, last, and 
only ride upon an ostrich. This was at the 
Pasedena Ostrich Farm, one of the sights of the 
place. It was not a success, at all events, so far 
as I was concerned. The ostrich was hooded when 
I got on his back, and quite quiet. But directly 
the hood was removed, the huge ungainly bird 
ran like mad under the railings, nearly breaking 
my leg, and glad was I to get off him. 

It was here, too, that I had my only experience 
of the autocratic methods of the much-talked-of 
American policeman. I was strolling leisurely 
back to my hotel late one evening from a cigar 
store, where I had been smoking, chatting, and 
throwing dice for " rounds " of cigars and cigar- 
ettes, a favourite pastime, by the way, with the 
Yanks, when a burly Irish policeman suddenly 
pounced upon me. He carried a big club and a 



134 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

big revolver, so I thought it best not to attempt 
to get away. In fact I imagined at first that he 
was having a game with me. 

I was soon undeceived, however. " Come 
along ! " he shouted roughly, seizing me by the 
collar, " I want you." 

" What for ? " I asked. 

" You'll soon see," he answered, and marched 
me to a telephone-box, which he unlocked with a 
key he carried, and asked over the wire for a 
patrol waggon to be sent along immediately. 

Into it, as soon as it arrived, I was uncere- 
moniously bundled, and driven to the police- 
station. Here I was charged with being drunk 
and disorderly. I tried to explain, but had hardly 
opened my mouth before I was roughly ordered to 
be silent by the Inspector on duty, and the next 
moment I was seized from behind and hustled 
into a cell. 

There I remained until after daybreak the 
following morning. The time seemed endless, and 
all the while I was wondering what my wife would 
say, left alone in a strange hotel in a strange city. 
At length there was a stir outside, a rattle of keys, 
and an officer appeared, and what is called out 
there, I learnt afterwards, the " daylight court " 
was convened. 

I stated my case volubly, and with considerable 
heat. The officer interrupted me. 

" You're English ? " he asked. 

" Yes I am," I replied, " and I'm going to have 
satisfaction for this outrage. Ill go to the 
British consul. I'll " 

" Get out ! " he interrupted. 

" But I say I wasn't " 

" Get out ! " 

" I've been insulted and " 



SOME AMERICAN EXPERIENCES 135 

" Get out ! " 

What could I do ? I got out. When I reached 
my hotel I found my wife in hysterics. I com- 
forted her as well as I could. Then I rushed off to 
the Los Angeles Record office and saw the editor. 
He only laughed. 

Afterwards I saw the manager of the music- 
hall where I was performing. He laughed too. 
Then he winked slowly. 

" Why didn't you tip the cop a dollar ? " he 
asked. 

Then I understood. But, alas! the understand- 
ing came too late to be of use. 



CHAPTER X 

MORE AMERICAN EXPERIENCES 

Through the Great American Desert — A land of desolation — An 
adventure at Santa F6 — " Hands up ! " — Railway strike 
methods in the wild and woolly West — At Kansas City — 
The Magicians' Club — " Welcome to our city " — A dis- 
appointing show — In the land of the Mormons — Salt Lake 
City — Brigham Young's seraglio — The Mormon Temple and 
Tabernacle — Something like an angel — Brigham Young's 
statue — My worst Press notice — A journalistic tragedy — In 
New York — I am served a scurvy trick — Hammerstein's — 
A row with the management — Sharp Yankee practice — I 
perform in the New York Synagogue in the presence of the 
Chief Rabbi — A unique honour — Rubber-neck cars — The 
almighty dollar — The Statue of Liberty — A suggestive 
pose — New York hotels — A tip as to boots. 

LEAVING Los Angeles for the East, we 
travelled by the Southern Pacific Rail- 
^J way, and plunged almost at a bound, so 
to speak, from one of the most lovely regions in 
the world into one of the most dreary and in- 
hospitable. 

This is the rightly named Great American 
Desert. For a thousand miles or so, practically 
all the way to Santa Fe in New Mexico, the 
railway runs through a wild and barren country — 
flat, dreary, and wholly uninteresting. Here and 
there patches of thorny " mesquite " bush alter- 
nate with vast stretches of grey and red sand and 
dazzling expanses of snow-white alkali. Other 
vegetation there is none, except that occasionally 
some gigantic cereus — emblem of barrenness — 
rears its contorted form into the thin clear air, 
and at night casts weird shadows athwart the 

moonlit level. 

136 



MORE AMERICAN EXPERIENCES 137 

The first portion of the line, as far as Fort Yuma 
on the Arizona border, is the worst. For nearly 
two hundred miles the track runs over what was 
once in prehistoric times the bed of the Pacific 
Ocean, and which is now a wilderness of billowy 
shifting sand, devoid of either animal or vegetable 
life, and of course totally without permanent 
inhabitants. The greater portion of this horrible 
desert is below sea level. It is, as might be 
expected, entirely destitute of fresh water, and in 
the old pre-railroad days its ever-changing sand- 
dunes formed the only graves of many hundreds 
of poor wretches vainly seeking to reach California 
by what was then known as the " Southern 
Trail." 

At Santa Fe, where we arrived at ten o'clock at 
night after one of the dreariest journeys imagin- 
able, there was a wait of two hours, and I got out 
of the train to stretch my legs a bit, and strolled 
down the line, taking with me for company my 
contortionist, Harry Cardoe. By the side of the 
track there was a kind of covered-in stall, kept by 
a Mexican, where liquor of a sort was dispensed, 
and we turned in for a chat and a drink. 

From the proprietor of the shanty we heard that 
a big railroad strike was in progress, and it was 
said that the strikers had blown up the line in 
several places, and were threatening to dynamite 
the trains. This was lively news, and I thought 
I might as well return to my car, where were my 
wife and kiddies ; which I did, leaving Cardoe 
still in conversation with the Mexican. 

An hour or more passed, and I was half asleep, 
when I was aroused by our train being put in 
motion, and a minute or so later there was a big 
commotion, and Cardoe, livid, dishevelled, and in 
a half-fainting condition, came stumbling into the 



138 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

car, and sank, gasping and panting, into the first 
seat he came to. So exhausted was he that it was 
full five minutes before we could get anything out 
of him. Then, when at length recovered his 
speech, he unfolded the following remarkable 
story. 

It appeared that he had stayed some time after 
I left, chatting with the Mexican keeper of the 
grog shop, when he was startled at hearing the 
warning clangour of a bell, and at the same time 
he saw a train drawing out of the station, or 
" depot," as the Americans prefer to call it. 
Imagining it to be our train, he made a bolt for 
it, and just managed to jump on the rear platform 
of the last coach, which he presently entered, 
after a brief pause to recover his breath. 

" Hullo ! " quoth the conductor, eyeing him 
suspiciously. " Where in h — 11 did you spring 
from ? Where's your ticket ? " 

" Mr. Carlton's got it," answered Cardoe, with 
easy assurance. " He keeps the tickets for the 
whole crowd of us." 

" Don't know no Mr. Carlton," cried the con- 
ductor brusquely. " Where you goin' to ? " 

" Kansas City," said Harry. 

" Huh ! " exclaimed the conductor. " This 
train don't go to Kansas City. Off you get ! " 
And, suiting the action to the words, he suddenly 
pounced upon my poor contortionist, and flung 
him bodily out of the car. 

By this time he had, of course, travelled some 
distance away from Santa F6, and after picking 
himself up, and carefully feeling himself all over 
to make sure that no bones were broken, he 
started to walk back along the railway track. 
But he was not yet at the end of his troubles. 
He had not gone far, when two big men sprang up 



MORE AMERICAN EXPERIENCES 139 

from the darkness alongside the track, thrust in his 
face two big revolvers, and curtly cried, " Hands 
up! " 

Now any American under such circumstances 
would have known what to do, and would at once 
have raised his hands above his head to avoid 
being shot. But poor Harry was unused to the 
summary methods of the wild and woolly West, 
and instead of doing as he was ordered he simply 
stood stock-still, and gazed at his captors in hope- 
less bewilderment. The next instant, however, he 
was on the ground, another member of the patrol — 
which had been sent out by the railway authori- 
ties to guard the track — having sprung upon him 
from behind and downed him. 

Then, having pinioned his arms, they started 
to cross-examine him. Of course, directly he 
began to speak in answer to their questions they 
knew that he was no striker, and presently they 
let him go. They told him, however, that he had 
narrowly escaped being shot dead in his tracks, 
and warned him on no account to attempt to 
walk back to Santa Fe along the line, lest he 
should meet some other patrol the members of 
which might very likely shoot first and challenge 
afterwards. As a result, the poor chap had 
to make a wide detour into the desert, and 
only just managed to reach the " depot ' and 
scramble into the train as it was on the point 
of starting. 

At Kansas City I had a somewhat disconcerting 
experience ; which, however, was not without its 
humorous side. I arrived there, after travelling 
all night, in the early morning after breakfast, 
and as I was billed to give my first show at a 
matinee the same day, I was in a bit of a hurry. 
I was hustling round seeing to the baggage, when 



140 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

an old gent with a long white beard came up to me, 
accompanied by quite a number of other people, 
and, beaming at me through his spectacles, 
inquired : 

" Are you Mr. Carlton ? " 

" Yes " I said. 

" Well," he went on, " I am Dr. Wilson." 

" Oh I " I replied, somewhat mystified. 

" Dr. Wilson ! " he repeated. " You've heard 
of me, of course ? I'm the President of the local 
Magicians' Club, and these gentlemen " — indi- 
cating his companions by a wave of his hand — 
11 are members of the deputation organised in 
order to bid you " — here he made a long and 
impressive pause, and beamed upon all and 
sundry — " to bid you," he repeated, " welcome 
to our city." 

if Much flattered and obliged, I'm sure," I 
replied, as each member of the deputation was 
introduced to me in turn. And each member of 
the deputation — there were about thirty of them 
in all — remarked effusively : 

" Welcome to our city." 

Next, the old gentleman who headed the deputa- 
tion made a speech. He said that he and his 
friends had heard of my fame, which was indeed 
world-wide, and that he and they wished me most 
cordially : 

" Welcome to our city." 

By this time the baggage was loaded, and I was 
on thorns to be off. But another old gent, who 
introduced himself as the editor of the Kansas 
Magicians' Magazine, butted in with yet another 
speech. He told me that the magicians of the 
place had booked the front row of the stalls for 
the coming matinee, and had arranged to enter- 
tain me to dinner after the performance, in order 



MORE AMERICAN EXPERIENCES 141 

to show their appreciation, and to bid me — I knew 
what was coming by this time : 

" Welcome to our city." 

Now mine is of course, in its essence, a spoof 
show. I rely on my patter for effect, and on my 
sleight-of-hand to draw the applause of my 
audiences. These people, I gathered later on, 
expected me to perform some wonderful illusions 
with the aid of a lot of complicated apparatus. 

When I first went on the stage there was a lot 
of applause and hand-clapping from the front row 
where the magicians were, mingled with shouts 
of: 

" Welcome to our city." 

But as I proceeded with my show, I could see 
that their opinion of me was rapidly undergoing 
a radical change. " The fellow's not a magician," 
they exclaimed to one another ; " he's an impostor. 
Why, we could do better tricks ourselves." 

They mostly quitted the theatre before the show 
was over, and I heard no more of the proposed 
dinner. But I pleased my audience all right, which 
was of course the main thing, and the unstinted 
applause which came from all parts of the house, 
both then and thereafter, proved to me that they, 
at all events, wished me : 

" Welcome to our city." 

I had heard a lot about the Mormons — who has 
not ? — and I was quite looking forward to visiting 
Salt Lake City, where I was billed to appear at 
the Orpheum Music-hall. As a matter of fact, 
however, I was rather disappointed with the 
place, which has little to recommend it to the 
casual visitor. 

Of course we " did the rounds," and saw all the 
sights worth seeing, notably the Temple and the 
Tabernacle. The former is a very fine building, 



142 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

but we only saw it from the outside, no others than 
Mormons being permitted to enter its sacred 
precincts. It is said to have cost £600,000, and 
to have occupied forty years in building. On 
the topmost pinnacle, dominating the whole city, 
is a statue of the angel Moroni, over twelve feet 
high, of beaten copper, covered with purest gold. 
Moroni is the angel who, according to Mormon 
mythology, is supposed to have revealed to Joseph 
Smith, the founder of Mormonism, the existence 
and location of the golden plates on which were 
inscribed in mystic characters the writings after- 
wards translated and published as the " Book of 
Mormon/ ' 

Salt Lake also boasts of a very fine statue of 
Brigham Young. He stands with his back to the 
Temple, and his right hand stretched out to the 
Deseret National Bank opposite. Scoffing Gentiles, 
of whom there are many in the city, say that the 
pose is characteristic of the man. We were also 
shown the Bee House and the Lion House, as they 
are called, buildings joined together by covered 
passages, where in the old days Brigham kept his 
numerous wives. Originally it was surrounded, 
after the fashion of an Eastern seraglio, by a high 
wall, so that no prying eyes could penetrate its 
interior ; but this was pulled down after Young's 
death. 

It was in Salt Lake City, by the way, that I was 
treated to absolutely the worst newspaper slating 
that my poor little show has ever called forth. 
" Carlton the long magician " — so ran the notice — 
" has the most disgusting and joy-killing ten 
minutes the Orpheum stage has offered in recent 
times. For cheap, slap, stick stuff, he gets the 
blue ribbon. The Orpheum has no business 
inflicting such a pest on its patrons. It is easy to 



MORE AMERICAN EXPERIENCES 143 

believe the statements made by the eastern 
vaudeville booking agents that good acts are 
hard to get these days." 

This gem of journalism appeared in the Salt 
Lake Evening Telegram. I made inquiries and 
found that it was written by a lady who was 
consumed by a furious hatred of everything and 
everybody English, and that she invariably 
" slated," to the best, or worst, of her ability, any 
" pro/s," whether male or female, hailing from our 
country. The affair did not bother me in the least, 
more especially as I got excellent notices in the 
other Salt Lake papers ; but some of the English 
people there resented it, and went up to the office 
of the Evening Telegram and had a row with the 
editor about it. Soon afterwards, and before I 
quitted the city, the lady journalist who had 
penned the notice went oft and drowned herself 
in the Great Salt Lake. A verdict of " suicide while 
insane " was brought in ; and it is therefore, I 
take it, a fair assumption that she was mad when 
she wrote it. In any case I am proud of it and 
I have had it framed and hung up in my house. 
An artiste, even a poor artiste, can always get 
plenty of flattering Press notices. He can even 
buy them. But he cannot buy one like the 
above. 

In New York I was served what I considered to 
be rather a dirty trick. I had been on what is 
known over there as the Orpheum Circuit, a 
twenty-two weeks' tour through the principal 
Western American cities, finishing at Milwaukee, 
when I received a wire from a New York agent to 
say that he had booked me for four halls in that 
city, the Alhambra and Palace ; the Orpheum, 
Brooklyn ; and one other. In between, a week 
intervened, and I also received an offer from 



144 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

another New York agent to put in this period at 
Hammerstein's Music-hall, provided terms could 
be arranged. 

Now I was naturally rather anxious to achieve 
a reputation for myself in New York, because a 
name made there counts. What I mean is that 
just as in England a London success means far 
more to an artiste than a provincial one does, 
so it is as regards New York and the rest of the 
United States of America. So in consideration of 
their " featuring me/' as we say in the " pro- 
fession/' I agreed to a big reduction of my usual 
salary at Hammerstein's. I also got an assurance 
from the agent that my name was to " top the 
bill " — what they call out there a " head liner " — 
and that I was to come on not earlier than the 
seventh turn. My reason for making this latter 
stipulation was that Hammerstein's is something 
like what the old Westminster Aquarium used to be 
in this one respect, it is practically an all-day show, 
and there is, in the ordinary way, hardly anybody 
there at the commencement. Consequently any 
" dud " turn does to lead off with. 

I badly wanted to see Niagara Falls on the way 
from Milwaukee to New York, but found that the 
train arrangements did not fit in, so I had to 
forgo the experience. Meanwhile a rather curious 
thing happened. My contortionist overslept him- 
self on the morning he should have started, and as 
there was no other train, and as I could not afford 
to miss the one I had arranged to travel by, I left 
his ticket at the booking office and came on 
without him, heartily cursing him in my own mind 
for his dilatoriness. 

I, of course, imagined that I should have to open 
in New York without him, and was very much 
upset and worried in consequence. As a matter 



MORE AMERICAN EXPERIENCES 145 

of fact, however, he turned up there at about the 
same time as I did ; he having had the luck to 
catch a special train which ran on that one day 
only. And not only that, but his train came via 
Niagara Falls, and stopped over there for a couple 
of hours, so that he was able to " do ' them 
thoroughly, a pleasure denied to me and my wife, 
and to the rest of my company who had been 
punctual. The moral, in this case at all events, 
would seem to be : " Take things easy, and they'll 
come all right in the end/' 

On arriving in New York I naturally looked for 
my name on the top of the bill at Hammerstein's 
as arranged. To my surprise it was not there, and 
I had to search diligently through a couple of yards 
or so of print before discovering it in very small 
type, and right at the bottom, sharing a line with 
the moving pictures. Naturally I was very much 
annoyed, and I told the agent who had engaged 
me so in language that left nothing to be desired 
in point of plainness. 

He was apologetic. Said it was due to a 
printer's error, and that anyway it would be all 
right as regards my turn. But it wasn't all right. 
On the contrary, it was all wrong. When I arrived 
at Hammerstein's on my opening day, I was 
shown into a long bare dressing-room, where were 
about twenty other performers, all strangers to 
me. I set about getting ready in leisurely fashion, 
and was only half made up when I was astounded 
at hearing the call-boy cry out : " Your turn 
next, sir ! " 

Thinking that I had miscalculated the time I 
made a rush for it, but when I got on the stage I 
was surprised to see that there was hardly any- 
body in the building. Looking round I saw 
" No. 2 " up, and it was then that I realised for 



146 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

the first time that I had been done once again by 
the slick Yanks. 

They had played me a scurvy trick twice over. 
Not only had they not put me at the top of the 
bill, but they had given me the worst turn, and — 
I was to get only about half my usual salary. 

Well, there was no help for it then, of course, 
but I made up my mind that I was going to get a 
bit of my own back. And I did. When I went 
on the stage there was practically nobody in the 
house, and I led off by congratulating the manage- 
ment at having brought me all the way from 
Europe at a big salary, and then putting me on 
when there was nobody there to listen to me. 

This patter raised quite a big laugh from the 
small audience that was there. They, in fact, 
thoroughly appreciated the joke. Not so the 
management. Mr. Kessler, the manager, was 
furious. 

" Cut that out," he cried in a stage whisper. 
" Don't pull that gol-durned stuff here." 

What I said in reply wouldn't look well in print. 
In fact it nearly ended in my breaking my con- 
tract, and chucking the engagement there and 
then. And indeed I think I should have done so 
but for my wife, who strongly advised me not to 
do anything of the kind. 

" After all," she said, " what does it matter ? 
You've got two years' bookings in England to go 
back to. Don't throw good money away." 

This, after all, was sound common sense, and I 
took her advice. But all the same I have no very 
pleasant recollections of Hammerstein's, more 
especially as because I declined to give a touting 
advertisement canvasser an order for a page 
" ad." in his paper — price one hundred dollars — 
his editor slated me badly, saying that I was a 



MORE AMERICAN EXPERIENCES 147 

bad copy of half the variety artistes in the United 
States — performers whom for the most pari I had 
never seen. 

At the other halls in New York where I appeared, 
nevertheless, things went very well indeed. I was 
given a good ''turn," and made a big hit ; so much 
so that Mr. Martin Beck, the proprietor, asked 
me to give my show in the New York Synagogue 
before Chief Rabbi Wise. This is an honour that 
up till then had never been accorded to any music- 
hall artiste, and I was, moreover, heartily con- 
gratulated by Mr. Wise at the conclusion of 
my show. 

So I quitted New York with pleasant recollec- 
tions after all, but before going, as a sly dig at 
Hammerstein's, I inserted the following " ad." in 
Variety, a trade paper answering over there to our 
Performer : 

" Sorry cannot come to terms with American 
managers. Boat sails Wednesday next. Carlton." 

A great feature in New York, and in fact in 
most of the big American cities, is what is known 
as " rubber-neck cars." These are really observa- 
tion motor-cars, holding twenty or more people, 
in which visitors are taken round to see the sights. 
A man with a megaphone sits in front with the 
driver, and roars out information at express speed 
regarding the various buildings, etc., as the 
conveyance is driven by them, and the term 
' rubber-neck " is used because you have to twist 
and turn and bend that portion of your anatomy 
at all sorts of different and uncomfortable angles, 
in order to properly view the skyscrapers, etc., he 
points out to you. 

Most of these conductors call out their informa- 
tion in terms of dollars. " Over there," he will say, 
' is the brown stone palace of old Jacob Astor — 



148 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

cost five million dollars. That white marble 
mansion to your right was built by one of the 
Vanderbilts — cost six million dollars. City hall — 
cost eight million dollars. Post Office — cost seven 
million dollars. This is the residence of Silas K. 
Jenkins, the dry-goods king, came to this country 
without a cent in his pocket — cost four million 
dollars " ; and so on, and so on. All the while 
I was entering the amounts in my pocket-book, 
and when I came to add them up afterwards the 
total came to about 4,000,000,000,000,000 dollars 
— more or less. 

The people of New York are never tired of 
expatiating on the beauties of their city, and 
especially are they proud of the gigantic Statue of 
Liberty, overlooking the harbour. It is note- 
worthy, however, that they have erected it with 
its face to England and its back to America. 

One word in conclusion regarding the New 
York hotels. They are fine institutions in their 
way, but there is one thing they won't do for you. 
They won't clean your boots. I only put my 
boots outside my bedroom once to be cleaned. In 
the morning they were not there. Nor did I ever 
see them again, and the only answer I got in 
response to repeated queries was : "In American 
hotels, sah, folks only put outside their doahs 
things they don't want." 



CHAPTER XI 

PANTOMIME SPOOFS AND JOKES 

Harry Tate and I — Together we found the order of " The Beauti- 
ful Swells " — The Birmingham spoof supper — A mouth- 
watering menu — The " Beautiful Swells' " anthem — Cock- 
roach soup — Property viands — A mysterious waiter — Ernie 
Lotinga's little joke — The spoofers spoofed — A pigeon pie 
that flew — A surplus of farthings — Rehearsing for panto- 
mime — My first rehearsal — I am " fired " out of the theatre 
— Pantomime in Hoxton — The gallery boy's irony — A 
cutting retort — I get married — Courting under difficulties — 
The married chorus-girl and the lovesick manager — Supper 
for two in a private room — Hoaxing the police — A sham 
tragedy and its sequel — The fat policeman and the big lobster 
— Sold again. 

DURING the pantomime season of 1910-11 
I was principal comedian at the Prince 
of Wales' Theatre, Birmingham, and 
Harry Tate filled a similar role at the Theatre 
Royal in the same town. Together we founded 
there the order of " The Beautiful Swells " — a 
spoof secret society, with signs, grips, passwords, 
etc., after the approved pattern. 

Out of this spoof society there sprang the 
famous spoof supper, organised by me, and the 
full and complete story of which is now given to 
the world for the first time. It was held at mid- 
night, and " pro.'s " were there from all parts. 
Nobody would have recognised us for what we 
were, however ; in fact, we could not recognise 
each other. For I had caused the fiat to go forth 
that everybody was to make up as somebody else, 
and the somebody else must be as unbeautiful as 

possible. 

149 



150 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

The result was that there were assembled 
together at the appointed hour as strange and 
heterogeneous a collection of human oddities as 
it is possible to imagine. Charlie Peace, the 
burglar, was not the least beautiful of the guests. 
Two of them, with cutting irony, had elected to 
make up as myself ; and there were no fewer than 
four White-Eyed Kaffirs. Three Lloyd Georges 
vied one with another in ugliness. There was a 
Scarlet Pimpernel, with a nose the size and 
colour of a beet. Everybody, in short, was any- 
body but their real selves, and nobody knew 
which was which, or who was who. 

The price of the supper tickets had been fixed 
at half-a-crown payable in advance, and part of 
the arrangement was that this was to be returned 
after the meal to all who put in an appearance, and 
fulfilled the stipulated conditions as to make- 
up, etc. 

I had arranged an elaborate menu. The mouths 
of the guests watered as they read it, and a 
confused murmur of pleasurable anticipation 
pervaded the supper-room. " By Jove, Carlton, 
old man, you've done the thing in style." exclaimed 
one well-known comedian to me. " It must have 
cost a pretty penny." 

So it had, but not quite in the way he supposed. 
Here, however, is the menu. Let the reader 
judge for himself. 

Hors d'ceuvres. 

Royal Natives. 

Plovers' Eggs. Melon Cantaloup. 

Soups. 
Real Turtle. Consomme Marie Stuart. 

Fish, 
Loch lay Salmon. Filets de Sole Carlton. 



PANTOMIMK SPOOFS AND JOKES 151 

Entree. 
Ortolans aux Raisins. 

Joints. 
Haunch of Venison. Saddle of Mutton. 

Sweets. 

Souffle au curacoa. Ice pudding. 

Wines. Liqueurs. Coffee. 

The proceedings were opened by Harry Tate, 
the chairman, who announced that all were to sing 
standing the " Beautiful Swells' Anthem,' ' written 
by himself. It ran, as nearly as I can recollect, 
as follows : 

Good evening, my beautiful swells, 

My rollicking pippins as well ; 

My golden russet, my sweet-scented friend : 

Is this the beginning or is it the end ? 

We're just beginning to like you, 

So lots of money we'll spend. 

Then join in this ditty, 

And have a sweet nippy, 

My piscatorial friend. 

Chorus : 

For we're all getting older and older, 

Older ev'ry day. 

We're all getting older and older, 

Soon we'll all be grey. 

So if you want some wrinkles, 

To keep you young and frisky, 

Keep late hours and drink plenty of whisky. 

Casey Jones got another papa, 

Casey Jones, the Cunard Line. 

Casey Jones got another papa, 

Got another papa on the Cunard Line. 

Pom-tiddly-om-pom ! Pom — pom ! pom ! 

This latter part of the ditty was emphasised by 
the banging of fists, knives, bottles, glasses, in 
fact, anything to make a noise ; and the resultant 



152 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

din, as may be imagined, was terrific. So was the 
cheering at the end, and the general hilarity ; but 
the latter was checked somewhat, so far at all 
events as regards the major part of the assembled 
guests, on seats being resumed, for these found 
that while they had been upstanding the waiters 
had deftly removed their beautifully printed menu 
cards, and had substituted in their place others 
not nearly so ornate and which read as follows : 

Hors d'osuvres. 
Very likely. 

Soups. 
If lucky. 

Fish. 
Very sorry it's off. 

Entrees. 
Hard lines. 

Joints. 
You never can tell. 

Sweets. 
Perhaps. 

Choice Wines. 
I don't think. 

Some of the guests now began to suspect that the 
whole affair was a spoof, but many did not ; and 
the altercations between these innocent ones and 
the waiters, the latter of whom were all in the 
know, were frequent and highly diverting. A man, 
for instance, would order salmon, or venison, or 
saddle of mutton, and would have pig's trotters 
and potatoes, the latter boiled in their jackets, 
almost literally thrown at him. No matter what 
anybody called for, the result was nearly always 
the same — pig's trotters and potatoes. 



TatA 

Tate. 




SiP- 

7 $W^ L.P.T.N- 

MR.V/. <«u£sT. 



BPRfcS' 



L-UD-K. Th E ScaRuEX 

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MR. JAMES , Mw . e ^, c 



fIV'a AilVltl .< cK!-CHV> .vr THK BEA.C«W*CL -.ACI-LP" BANQTBT (Mf fTESDAS K\-5>n*a 



THE "BEAUTIFUL SWELLS " SPOOF SUPPER-A PAGE OF CARICATURES 

BY TOM WEBSTER 



PANTOMIME SPOOFS AND JOKES 153 

The soup was of the cabbage-water variety, in 
which floated " property/' cockroaches ; these 
the waiters would remove with their fingers, 
purposely grimy for the occasion. To add to the 
confusion some few of our guests, here and there, 
were actually served — by my instructions — with 
the venison, salmon, or whatever else they 
ordered. 

Those sitting to the right and left of these lucky 
ones regarded them with envious eyes, and tried 
to force back on the waiters their own unsavoury 
trotters and potatoes. As a result, of course, 
confusion soon became worse confounded. Nor 
was it allayed in any degree by the tactics of 
Harry Tate, who was continually jumping up 
from his chair in order to make some such 
announcement as follows, delivered in tones of 
becoming gravity : " Gentlemen : I am sorry, 
but the plovers' eggs have not arrived ; gentlemen, 
I regret to say that the salmon is off ; gentlemen, 
it is very annoying, but I'm afraid we shall have 
to dispense with the ortolans — there are none to 
be had in the market." 

In despair some of the guests tried to eat their 
bread, but found that the seemingly crisp and 
inviting-looking little rolls were filled, as regards 
their interiors, with nothing more edible than 
cotton wool. Everything on the table, or served 
up at the table, in fact (bar the trotters and 
potatoes), was of the " property " variety, got 
specially from Paris at considerable trouble and 
expense. The eggs and bacon looked real, and 
they were, in fact, served with real gravy ; but 
the eggs were china imitations, and cemented to the 
plates at that, and the bacon was of similar 
material. The luscious-looking peaches and grapes 
on the central fruit-stands were waxen imitations. 



154 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

Those who tried the cheese spat it out again 
hurriedly ; finding it to be soap — mottled for the 
gorgonzola, yellow for the Cheddar. The coffee 
and the liqueurs, the soda and the whisky, were 
anything and everything but what they were 
supposed to be. Even the cigars and the cigar- 
ettes went bang directly one started to smoke 
them. 

The waiters acted their parts to perfection, 
especially the head waiter ; who indeed, as time 
went on, began to rather over-act his. At least so 
I commenced to think. So, too, did Harry Tate, 
when the fellow shot a load of hot potatoes and 
trotters on to the seat of his chair when he (Harry) 
was in the act of standing up to speak — and left 
them there. Harry sat down in them ; with what 
result may be imagined. 

The climax came when this particular waiter 
upset a huge dish of gravy all over me. " Here," 
I said, " don't you come it too far. I told you 
beforehand that you were not to play any games 
on me or Harry." 

" Oh, you go to h— 11," replied the fellow. " Who 
do you think you are ? Damn you and your spoof 
suppers. I'm a waiter, I am ; not a bloomin' 
knockabout comedian. Pay me my money, and 
let me go." 

I jumped to my feet at this, really angry, and 
was proceeding to give him a piece of my mind, 
when in a changed voice, that I knew well, he 
cried : ' All right, Carlton, old man ; keep your 
hair on." 

I gasped in amazement. So did all the others 
standing round. It was Ernie Lotinga. He had 
made himself up as a waiter after sending us a 
spoof telegram from London regretting his in- 
ability to be present, had bribed the real waiter 



PANTOMIME SPOOFS AND JOKES 155 

I had engaged to allow him (Lotinga) to take his 
place for the occasion, and had spoofed us, the 
spoof ers, and every other person in the room 
during the entire evening. 

It was the most wonderful piece of play-acting, 
and the most perfect piece of disguising, that has 
ever come to my knowledge. Every man in the 
room knew Lotinga perfectly well. Yet not one 
of us had suspected him for a single instant. He 
had altered his voice, as completely as he had 
altered his facial appearance. 

After the roar of laughter created by this un- 
expected discovery had subsided, Harry Tate 
rose to make a few remarks. We had had our 
little joke, he said, and he hoped nobody had taken 
it amiss. 

Several voices : "No! No! Harry! But "— 
plaintively — " we're deuced hungry." 

" Quite so," replied Tate. " I'd thought of 
that, and there's one thing good to eat that we 
have provided, and that I can pledge my word 
is what it purports to be, and that's a pigeon 
pie." 

With that a burly waiter bore into the room an 
immense pie, and placed it before Harry to carve. 
He inserted the carving-knife and fork solemnly 
and deftly, while the mouths of our famished 
guests once more watered in pleasurable antici- 
pation. Then he removed a generous portion 
of the crust — and out flew a number of live 
pigeons. 

This was the last of the spoofs of the supper 
proper ; the remainder of the time being occupied 
in consuming sandwiches, bottled beer, whisky 
and soda, and in smoking the supply of very 
excellent cigars and cigarettes we had provided. 
It took some time, however, to persuade our 



156 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

guests to settle down to the consumption of these ; 
for, after the evening's experience, they feared 
being hoaxed over again. 

When all were at length comfortable, an im- 
promptu entertainment was held, each guest being 
required to give an imitation of the character he 
represented. It was great fun. Lastly came the 
refunding of the money paid for the supper 
tickets, as previously announced. The guests 
entered an ante-room one at a time, having first 
been blindfolded, and after being subjected to 
sundry mock tests and ceremonies of the order 
that would not look well in print, each had his 
half-crown returned to him, or rather its value — 
in farthings. 

There were more than fifty guests present, so 
that over six thousand farthings were paid out. 
I had previously arranged for these through one 
of the local banks, and for days afterwards 
certain of the Brummagem " pubs " habitually fre- 
quented by " pro/s " were deluged with farthings, 
greatly to the disgust of the landlords, some of 
whom resented being tendered sixty-four farthings 
in exchange for a couple of whiskies and 
sodas. 

This particular supper was arranged to cele- 
brate the close of the pantomime season. It 
sounds perhaps rather odd to the uninitiated out- 
sider to talk about " celebrating " the close of a 
season that means a steady and settled income, so 
long as it lasts, for every performer engaged in the 
run of the piece. But as a matter of fact panto- 
mimes are not popular institutions with music- 
hall artistes. The money they receive for 
performing in them is. But that, as Kipling would 
say, is another story. 

Rehearsals are particularly galling. I recollect 



PANTOMIME SPOOFS AND JOKES 157 

that at the very first pantomime I ever rehearsed 
I got into hot water almost directly. This was 
at the Chester Theatre Royal, where Mr. Milton 
Bode was producing " The Babes in the Wood/' 
I was cast for the part of Bumble, the village 
beadle, and of course I was perfectly ready and 
willing to rehearse the special " business " per- 
taining to the part, but Mr. Bode insisted on my 
rehearsing my own specialities as well. 

This struck me as being supremely idiotic, and 
a waste of time into the bargain, and I said as 
much. Bode, who was by way of being a bit of an 
autocrat, flew into a violent temper, and threw 
his hat at me. One word led to another, and in the 
end he ordered me out of the theatre. 

I went — as far as the " pub " opposite. " That's 
done it," I said to myself. " You silly ass ! Here 
have you been wishing for a panto engagement 
ever since you've been in the profession, and the 
very first chance you get, you take and chuck it 
away. You ought to go and kick yourself to 
death." 

Presently, enters Milton Bode. " Hullo, 
Carlton ! Have a bottle ? " 

I ventured to remind him of what had happened 
less than an hour previously. 

" Oh, that's nothing," he replied genially. " You 
don't know what the responsibility of producing a 
pantomime is like. Why, I've just thrown my hat 
at one of the chorus-girls, and told her to go away 
somewhere and drown herself. She w^on't take 
any notice, and neither must you. It's all in a 
day's work. Don't forget — rehearsal to-morrow 
morning again at ten sharp." And he bustled out, 
all smiles and geniality. 

Another pantomime reminiscence ! At the 
Variety, Hoxton, one Boxing Night, " The 



158 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

Forty Thieves " was produced. The panto was 
not precisely up to Drury Lane standards, either 
as regards the scenery, or the number of per- 
formers engaged. Instead of there being forty 
thieves, there were only ten, and these marched 
from the wings into the cave, then out at the 
back, and round to the front again, said operation 
being repeated four times, so as to make it appear 
as if the orthodox number was present. 

The gallery boys were not deceived, however, 
as was evident from a chorus of voices demand- 
ing, " Hi, guv'nor, where's the other thirty 
thieves ? " 

Quick as a flash came the retort from the 
chairman : " They're up in the gallery." 

There was a roar of approving laughter. The 
Hoxton gallery boys realised that the chairman 
knew what he was talking about. Some amongst 
them possibly had had the " honour " — and a 
very great honour it was considered there and 
then — of sitting at his little table with him, and 
incidentally standing him a drink. 

It was while performing in pantomime at Leeds 
that I met and married my wife, who was also on 
the stage there at the time. We had never met 
one another before, and I had to do most of my 
courting behind the scenes in between the acts, 
with stage carpenters bustling round, and chorus- 
girls pushing backwards and forwards between us 
without so much as " by your leave/' 

However, we fixed it up all right, and got 
married while the piece was still running. The 
wedding was celebrated at the Oxford Chapel, in 
the City Square, which was packed with people, 
the happy event having been well boomed before- 
hand. A cinematograph operator was there ready 
to film us, but the press was so great that he and 



PANTOMIME SPOOFS AND JOKES 159 

his machine were both overturned, and we were 
not " featured " after all. 

As soon as the ceremony was over we were 
whisked back in a motor-car to the theatre for a 
matinee performance, and the same evening the 
" book " of the pantomime was considerably 
altered, though unofficially, owing to practically 
every performer with a speaking part introducing 
a " gag " having some reference or other to the 
" happy event." 

The orchestra, too, took it upon themselves to 
strike up the " Wedding March/' on my first 
appearance on the stage ; and news of the 
marriage having got bruited about, the theatre 
was packed from floor to gallery, amongst the 
audience being the Lord Mayor of Leeds. 

Shortly before the termination of my panto- 
mime engagement I asked the manager of the 
Theatre if he would give me a week's en- 
gagement to follow on, seeing I had done so well 
there ; but I was told, none too politely, that my 
terms of £40 a week that I was then asking were 
ridiculous. 

I rather got my back up at this, and so as not 
to be done I took the Coliseum, Leeds, a huge 
place, capable of seating between four and five 
thousand people. It was in fact so big that 
nobody had ventured to open it as a music-hall 
before, it having been used mostly for musical 
festivals, and things of that sort. 

I paid £80 for the use of the hall for a week, 
and about as much again for advertising my 
forthcoming show. All this, of course, as a 
preliminary ! Managers and artists alike said 
that I would never make it pay ; that I was mad. 

Maybe ! But anyway there was method in 
my madness. I reflected that, as usually happens 



i6o TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

at the termination of a provincial pantomime 
engagement, practically all the artistes at the 
two pantomimes running in Leeds would be 
" resting/' which means, of course, being tempor- 
arily out of a job, and that they would probably 
be willing to engage with me at a very reasonable 
salary. And this, as a matter of fact, the majority 
of them were only too glad to do. 

Then I hired a coach and four, and drove myself 
round, made up as on the stage, to all the schools. 
There are about forty schools in Leeds, and my 
method of procedure was the same in each one 
of them. 

" Good morning, sir," I would remark, ad- 
dressing the head master. " May I have per- 
mission to entertain your little scholars gratis for 
a few minutes ? " 

In every case permission was readily given, 
whereupon I would give a short conjuring show, 
bringing in the usual " bunny rabbit " trick, 
always a prime favourite with children, and a few 
others. 

Naturally they were highly delighted, and as 
soon as the applause died away I made a short 
speech something after this fashion : " Boys and 
girls, I am glad you appreciated my little per- 
formance. Now, as some of you may have heard, 
I got married the other day, and to celebrate the 
event I have taken the Coliseum for a week. All 
the principal artistes now performing at the two 
pantomimes will be there, and I would like you all 
to come and see them and me. These tickets " — 
here I handed round one to each child — " will 
admit you at half-price, if you come accompanied 
by your parents." 

The result of this little plan of mine was that I 
had the hall packed every evening, and had to 



PANTOMIME SPOOFS AND JOKES 161 

give extra matinees, and 1 cleared £287 for myself 
after paying salaries and all other expensi . 

I rather iliink that that manager was sorry 
he didn't engage me and pay me the £40 I 
asked. 

A few months afterwards I was running a show 
of my own at a well-known music-hall in the West 
End of London, and my wife took a part in the 
performance. After the first performance, enter 
the manager of the theatre into my dressing- 
room : 

" Nice lot of girls you've got in your show, 
Carlton ! " 

" Fairish/' I replied. 

" Humph ! There's one of 'em I've rather taken 
a fancy to. Will you introduce me ? She might 
be willing to come and take supper with me after 
the show." 

" Very likely ! " I said. " Which one is it ? ^ 

" The little dark girl in the corner," he 
replied. 

" All right ! " I said, smiling inwardly to myself. 
" Come round to-morrow night after the show, and 
I'll introduce you." 

The next night he was there to time, extra 
spruce and well groomed, and with a big white 
camelia in his button-hole. I pretended not to 
notice him, however, and bundled the girls off 
directly they had finished their performance. 
Afterwards I made pretence to be awfully sorry, 
saying that I had forgotten all about the 
matter. 

" But," he exclaimed ruefully, " I've ordered 
supper, a bird and a bottle for two, in a 

private room at the X ," mentioning one 

of the swellest and most expensive restaurants 
in Town. 

M 



162 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

" Never mind," I said, " it won't be wasted. 
You and I will eat it between us. Then you can 
order another one for to-morrow night, and I'll 
speak to the girl in the meantime, and fix things 
up for you with her." 

" All right/' he agreed. " But don't forget a 
second time." 

Well, we ate the supper, and the next night he 
was behind the scenes while my show was on, 
hopping about here, there, and everywhere like 
a cat on hot bricks. Directly it was over he 
advanced, smirking and smiling ; and the intro- 
duction he craved was performed — as follows : 

" Mr. So-and-So, this is Mrs. Carlton — my wife : 
Marie, my dear, this is Mr. So-and-So, the 
manager, who is desirous of making your acquaint- 
ance." 

I never saw a man so utterly taken aback in my 
life. He didn't know what to say or do, but simply 
stood stock-still, and stared, and gasped. After- 
wards we had a hearty laugh together over the 
incident. 

" You had me properly," he said ; " but you 
might have told me." 

" Well," I replied, " let it be a lesson to you not 
to go running after the girls in a show without 
first making sure that they're single." 

At a certain northern town where I once per- 
formed in pantomime the police were inclined to 
be somewhat uppish and disagreeable, and the 
male artistes who were there at the time formed 
themselves into a committee of the whole house, 
and resolved to be even with them. So one night 
the neighbourhood near the central police-station 
was aroused by a tremendous disturbance coming 
from the inside of a third-story room of a house 
situated almost opposite. The police turned out 



PANTOMIME SPOOFS AND JOKES 163 

in force. A crowd collected, gazing excitedly 
upward. 

A tragedy was being enacted before their eyes. 
There was a light burning inside the room, and on 
the drawn blind were silhouetted the figures of two 
men furiously struggling. Presently the blind 
was torn aside, and one of the combatants, a big, 
strong fellow, threw the other bodily out of the 
window. A shriek of horror burst from the crowd, 
and the policemen on duty below rushed forward 
to try and break his expected fall. 

However, the man who had been thrown out 
did not drop immediately, but grasped the window- 
sill with his hands. His assailant, bent apparently 
on killing him outright, started to beat him about 
the head and shoulders with what looked like a 
heavy iron bar. The next instant four or five 
policemen rushed into the room, having darted 
upstairs and burst the door open. 

Then they discovered that the man who was 
hanging out of the window was in no danger of 
falling, being secured by a strong thin line. The 
" iron " bar, with which he was being belaboured, 
was a " property " one of soft rubber. 

" Why, what's the meaning of all this ? " asked 
the puzzled inspector. 

" Oh," replied the man inside the room, as he 
assisted his chum to clamber back through the 
window, " we're just rehearsing a scene for next 
year's pantomime ; the one in the harlequinade, 
you know, where the Bobby comes in." 

One of the constables who climbed the three 
flights of stairs to the room on this occasion was 
fat and somewhat wheezy, and he naturally felt 
hurt. A few nights later he tried his best to get 
a bit of his own back. A friend and myself were 
bidding one another good-bye outside the theatre 



fcjl 




i . 




1 


' 


I 1 1 


i 

* • 




- 



164 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

after the performance, when he thrust himself 
roughly between us and told us to "move on 
there." 

Knowing that expostulation on our part would 
only lead to our being locked up on a charge of 
loitering and obstructing the police, we said 
nothing, but promptly did as we were bid. The 
next morning, however, we shadowed our tor- 
mentor from a distance, and discovered that he 
was stationed on point duty of an afternoon not 
far from a big fishmonger's shop in one of the main 
streets. 

On the day following, in the middle of the 
afternoon, my friend sidled furtively up to the 
shop. A fine lobster was prominently displayed 
in the centre of the marble slab. The fat police- 
man was there. 

Suddenly my friend put out his hand, seized 
the lobster, and took to his heels. The policeman 
took after him. There was an exciting chase of a 
mile or more, but eventually my friend allowed 
himself to be caught, and haled back in triumph 
to the shop. 

" What's the matter ? " cried the fishmonger, 
coming out on to the pavement. 

" This fellow has stolen your lobster ? " panted 
the policeman. 

" Have I ? " inquired my friend innocently, 
addressing the fishmonger. 

" Of course not," he replied. " You bought and 
paid for it an hour ago." 

" Sold again ! " cried my friend, turning to the 
policeman ; and the crowd, to whom the joke now 
became apparent, roared with laughter ; while the 
officer walked away in high dudgeon, muttering 
under his breath things that cannot be set down 
in print. 



PANTOMIME SPOOFS AND JOKES 165 

As a matter of fact my friend had purchased the 
lobster, at the same time telling the iishmonger 
that he need not wrap it up for him. " Leave it on 
the slab where it is," he remarked as he handed 
over the purchase money, ' and I'll call for it 
presently, and take it away just as it is." 

Which he did. 



CHAPTER XII 

AFRICA AND THE ORIENT 

Bound for Cape Town — A pleasant voyage — Ships' games — A 
contrast in voyages — " Cock-fighting " at sea — "Chalking the 
Pig's Eye" — "Swinging the Monkey" — Marine cricket — A 
new kind of golf — Cycling at sea — Sweepstakes on the vessel's 
run — Races on the ocean wave — Mock breach-of-promise 
trials — By bullock waggon to Kimberley — I perform before 
Cecil Rhodes — Get shot in a street row — Contrast on my 
second visit — The great strike riots in Johannesburg — Fire 
and dynamite — A night of horror — A gay but expensive city 
— Dear drinks — Performing in the back veldt — Eggs for 
throwing — At Pretoria — Kruger's house — Where Winston 
Churchill swam the river — A disappointing stream — My prize 
giant — A Jo'burg sensation — Buying a forty-shilling suit 
to measure — A disgusted tailor — Special railway travelling — 
My giant proves his agility — In Colombo — Indian fakirs — 
Their conjuring skill overrated — The boy and rope trick — 
Two versions of a similar story — The whole thing a fake — 
The evidence of H.H. the Maharajah of Jodhpur — I offer 
jTioo to any native who can do it — No takers — The mango 
seed trick — Outwitting a fakir — " Let me plant the seed " — 
The camera in action — The Tree of Life — Cobra and mon- 
goose fight. 

THE voyage out to South Africa is an ex- 
ceedingly pleasant one. The passengers 
invariably settle down soon after leaving 
Madeira into a sort of happy family party, and 
all kinds of games and sports peculiar to ship- 
board are entered into with zest. 

To a certain degree, of course, this is true of all 
ocean voyages. Going out to America on the 
Mauretania, for instance, we played all the usual 
ships' games, and I recollect that I won everything, 
with the exception of the pillow fight. Indeed, as 
regards the blindfold games, such as, for example, 
" Chalking the Pig's Eye," I was bound to win ; 

1 66 



AFRICA AND THE ORIENT 167 

for a reason I shall explain later. But then, of 
course, I never claimed the prize for these, but 
always Let it go to the second best, or put it up for 
competition over again. 

But the Atlantic passage is too short, and often, 
alas ! too stormy to lend itself readily to a set 
programme of games. The P. & O. and the 
Orient liners make, it is true, longer voyages in 
quieter seas. But the trip is broken into chapters, 
as it were, by a succession of stopping-places — 
Gibraltar, Malta, Port Said, and so forth — at 
which passengers arrive and depart, destroying 
the continuity of the excursion and usually 
rendering futile any attempt at organised recrea- 
tion. 

The moment, however, a Union or a Castle 
liner lifts anchor at Madeira, her passengers know 
that there lies before them a clear fourteen days' 
run, and — they make the most of it. Spasmodic 
attempts may, indeed, have been made by some 
few athletic enthusiasts to get up a scratch match 
at cricket or golf ere the ship was well clear of the 
English Channel, but these are more often than 
not foredoomed to failure. It is the fashion of old 
South African voyagers to protest that the 
pleasures of a Cape trip do not really commence 
until Madeira is left behind, and there is a certain 
amount of truth in this. The crossing of the Bay 
is usually provocative of more or less seasickness, 
and, as a natural consequence, both saloons and 
decks are practically deserted. Besides, the 
passengers do not usually begin to really know one 
another in the three days and a half which are 
occupied in the run to this island. 

All this is changed with the disappearance, on 
the northern horizon, of the white roofs of Funchal. 
It is felt by all that the real business of the voyage 



168 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

has begun, and the " sports season " is promptly 
inaugurated by, we will say, a " cock-fight/' 
A ring twelve feet or thereabouts in diameter is 
chalked out upon the deck, and the " birds " fight 
with their bare feet, their arms having been 
previously " trussed " with stout broomsticks, the 
relinquishing of which entails instant and final 
disqualification. 

After several rounds have been brought to a 
conclusion, either " Swinging the Monkey " or 

1 Chalking the Pig's Eye " is likely enough to be 
started. In the first-named game, a man is slung, 
by a rope attached to his feet, to a boom overhead, 
with his hands resting on the deck and partly 
supporting his body. In his right hand is a piece 
of chalk, and his object is to make with it a line on 
deck which shall reach further than that drawn by 
any of his competitors. Considerable skill and 
judgment are called into play, as, should he prove 
too venturesome at the wrong time, the rolling of 
the ship is apt to cause him to lose his balance, and 
come swinging ignominiously against the bulwarks. 

' Chalking the Pig's Eye " can be played by both 
ladies and gentlemen. A pig, minus an eye, is 
chalked out upon the deck, and the competitors, 
after being blindfolded and turned round three 
times, try to fit in the missing optic. The result is 
usually ludicrous enough. 

Marine cricket is played on a cocoanut-matting 
pitch with a ball of twisted rope-yarn. Nets are 
stretched along the side of the ship nearest the 
ocean, and the stumps fit into a specially made 
block of wood weighted with lead. Owing to the 
lurching of the vessel, both bowling and batting 
are apt to be extremely erratic ; indeed, nowhere 
save on shipboard is the proverbial " glorious 
uncertainty ' of the game so clearly apparent. 



AFRICA AND THE ORIENT 169 

Three matches are usually brought off during a 
trip — Passengers v. Officers, Married v. Single, 
and Ladies v. Gentlemen. Golf is a comparatively 
modern addition to the list of sea games, but is 
rapidly growing in favour. The " balls" are flat 
discs of wood, four or five inches in diameter, and 
a fairly heavy walking-stick takes the place of a 
club. The " holes " are in some ships represented 
by spots of chalk, which have to be covered by the 
discs ; and in others by circles about half as large 
again as the disc, into which they have to be 
played. Hitting is entirely superseded by pushing, 
whether for a long drive or a short one. The great 
thing is not to allow the wind to get underneath 
your " ball," as it will then almost assuredly rise 
on its edge and roll away, either into the sea or 
among the unexplored tangle of ropes " for'ard." 
Board-ship golf, it may be remarked, naturally 
produces its own distinctive and peculiar termin- 
ology. A " ball," for instance, is said to be 
" scuppered," " coal bunkered," and so on. 

A fancy-dress ball caused a lot of fun, but this 
was changed to something very like consternation 
when, right in the middle of it, one of the stokers, 
nude to the waist, a swab over his arm, and grimed 
all over with oil and coal-dust, came blundering 
up on to the upper deck right into the midst of the 
dancers. 

The general opinion was that the intruder was 
drunk, and there was a wild stampede to get out of 
his way, the many delicately attired ladies especi- 
ally fairly racing for safety. 

A couple of the ship's officers came hurrying 
up, and roughly ordered him below, and as he 
showed no disposition to go, they made as if to 
compel him ; whereupon he cried out exultingly : 

" Here, hold hard ! I'm Harry Cardoe, Mr. 



170 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

Carlton's contortionist. This is a fancy-dress 
ball, isn't it ? Well, this is my fancy dress." 

At this there were shrieks of laughter, and he 
was the recipient of many congratulations — at a 
safe distance — from the other passengers. Of 
course he and I had engineered the joke between 
us. 

It took poor Harry about an hour, however, to 
get the oil and dirt off his skin, and he grumbled 
a lot during the operation. But next morning, 
when he found, greatly to his surprise, that he had 
been awarded the prize for the most realistic 
make-up, he was completely mollified. 

I have already mentioned golf as being in the 
nature of a novelty. Bicycle races, six laps to the 
mile, constitute another innovation, but the 
machines and riders are almost too apt to come to 
grief. Obstacle races are, perhaps, among the 
most generally popular of " open events," the 
entries being usually out of all proportion to the 
number of prizes. Nearly every obstacle usually 
encountered on land has to be negotiated, together 
with a number of others peculiar to ship-board. 
Among these latter may be mentioned sets of life- 
belts, each swinging loosely and tantalisingly at 
the end of a solitary rope ; funnel-shaped sails, 
the insides liberally daubed with greasy soot and 
sprinkled with flour ; and rope entanglements of 
fearful and wonderful construction. 

Sack races, flat races, and wheelbarrow races 
are also organised, the two latter being not in- 
frequently participated in by the ladies on board. 
The favourite contest with the fair sex, however, 
is the egg-and-spoon race, varied occasionally by 
a needle-threading competition. In the former 
the competitors have to run a certain distance, 
each carrying at arm's length a very large egg 



AFRICA AND THE ORIENT 171 

in an exceedingly small spoon. The various 
dodges adopted by the runners are well worth 
studying. 

At 11.30 the daily sweepstakes on the vessel's 
run is drawn, the numbers being afterwards 
put up for auction. This always causes a deal of 
excitement, and it is an understood tiling that 
a certain percentage of the winnings is handed 
over to some charity. It is also usual to hold, 
during each voyage, at least one mock breach- 
of -promise trial. The " counsel " on cither side 
are arrayed in sailcloth gowns and wigs made of 
cotton-waste, and the proceedings are carried out 
strictly in accordance with legal etiquette. The 
cross-examination of the fair plaintiff — who is, 
more often than not, some pretty little soubrette 
bound for South Africa's " City of Gold " — is 
generally the cause of roars of laughter. 

I have made two professional trips to South 
Africa. The first time I trekked in a bullock waggon 
from Cape Town to Kimberley, and had the satis- 
faction of giving a performance before Cecil 
Rhodes at the Sanatorium there. Those were 
rough times. Street fights w T ere of frequent 
occurrence, and on one occasion two miners 
started firing at each other in close proximity to 
where I was standing. 

I promptly took cover, as did the rest of the 
bystanders, and was unaware of anything wrong 
until, feeling my foot wet and heavy, I stooped 
down, and with my finger and thumb pulled a 
bullet out of my leg from just under the skin near 
the ankle-joint. It had been nearly spent when it 
struck me ; fortunately for me. 

This was before the war. On my second visit, 
in 1913, I had the ill luck to arrive in Johannes- 
burg while the great strikes were in progress. 



172 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

Luckily they were soon over, but it was a very 
terrible business indeed while it lasted. 

The affair began over a small matter, that 
might, one would have imagined, have been easily 
settled. Five white mechanics working under- 
ground at the New Kleinfontein mine were asked 
to assent to an alteration of hours that would 
involve their working for the future on Saturday 
afternoons. They refused, and were dismissed. 
Whereupon all the white men working at that 
particular mine went on strike. 

The trouble spread. Mine after mine was thrown 
idle. The mine-owners replied by importing 
strike-breakers, or blacklegs as the miners called 
them. This infuriated the workers, and for two 
or three days over the week-end Johannesburg 
was given up to something very like civil war. 
To venture into the streets was to gamble with 
death. The theatres and music-halls were closed ; 
the newspapers suspended publication. The 
railway station and the offices of the Star news- 
paper were set on fire by the rioters, and burned 
to the ground, and many other buildings were 
either partially or wholly destroyed. Eventually 
the soldiers got the upper hand, but not before 
about a score of rioters had been killed, and some 
two hundred wounded. 

Jo' burg, as the inhabitants affectionately term 
it, is a gay place, but expensive. When I opened at 
the Empire Music-hall there, I asked half a dozen 
or so men down to the bar for drinks round. I put 
down a sovereign to pay for them. 

Barman : " Another twelve shillings, please." 

I should have taken no notice in these days, for 
they would now cost almost as much at home. 

I gave my show at a great many small towns, 
and back-veldt settlements where one would 



AFRICA AND THE ORIENT 173 

hardly have imagined that an audience could 
be scraped together ; but the returns were 
invariably satisfactory, the reason being that 
prices rule high out there. The cheapest seat at 
most of the halls and theatres cost four shillings ; 
a stall is a guinea. 

One little mining town we were warned against 
quite solemnly. 

" Don't go there," I was told. " They're a 
rough crowd. They'll throw eggs at you." 

" I don't care," I replied. " It won't be the 
first time I've had eggs thrown at me." 

" Ah ! But these are ostrich eggs." 

At Pretoria we were shown Kruger's tomb ; and 
we were also conducted over his house. It is 
quite an unpretentious building, and plainly 
furnished. Everything in it is supposed to have 
been left exactly as it was during his life, and the 
visitor is invited by the caretaker to sit in the 
late president's favourite chair. The tomb was 
decorated with many faded wreaths, some of 
them from English Socialist and Trade Union 
leaders. 

We were also shown the spot where Winston 
Churchill was supposed to have swum the river 
when he escaped from Pretoria during the Boer 
War. I expected to see a broad stream, or at least 
a raging torrent ; something representing some 
sort of a difficulty at all events. Instead, I was 
confronted with what was in effect little more than 
a placidly flowing brook, deep perhaps, but so 
narrow that I couM easily have jumped across it 
had I been so minded ; and which, as a matter of 
fact, I did do later on. 

It reminded me of another disappointment in 
connection with a river, that befell me while I was 
travelling in the United States of America. I was 



174 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

shown a muddy, sluggish, malodorous little stream, 
meandering through a swamp in Florida. 

" See that river ? " asked my guide. 

" I see a dirty little ditch," I replied ; " and I 
can smell it too." 

" That river, sir," corrected my guide, " is 
famous. Its name is known wherever the 
English language is spoken." 

" Oh ! " I said. " What's it called ? " 

" The Swanee River ! " answered the guide. 

And to-day, and ever since, whenever an 
orchestra anywhere strikes up the well-known air 
of " Way down upon the Swanee River," like a 
flash memory calls up unbidden the image of that 
slimy, alligator-infested creek in the Florida 
Everglades. 

I took a prize giant out to South Africa with me ; 
" Scotty," the King's biggest and heaviest subject. 
He measured seven feet in height, and weighed 
considerably over thirty stone. 

On the liner, going out, his huge bulk was 
accommodated in a double cabin ; two ordinary 
cabins knocked into one. Of course it was all done 
for advertisement ; a rather costly advertisement, 
by the way ; but as the company I was travelling 
with paid all fares this didn't trouble me. 

At Cape Town we arranged to have an observa- 
tion-car attached to the train for his special 
convenience as far as Johannesburg, and thence to 
Pretoria. This too, of course, was in the nature 
of an advertisement ; to make people talk, and 
attract attention, it being pretended that his 
immense size precluded his passing through the 
door of an ordinary car, or along the corridor. 

From Pretoria we went to Durban, and the 
stationmaster at the former place informed us 
that no observation-car was available for this 




ARRIVAL IN JOHANNESBURG OF CARLTON, HIS GIANT, AN1> HIS DWARF 



AFRICA AND THE ORIENT 175 

part of the journey. By this time " Scotty " had 
begun to believe thai he really couldn't get into 
an ordinary car, or squeeze himself along an 
ordinary corridor, and he was quite upset and 
angry at being denied his usual roomy and 
luxurious special car. 

" I can't possibly do it," he wailed, when the 
station officials urged him to at least try to enter 
the train in the usual way. 

11 Well," exclaimed the stationmaster at last, 
" you will have to get in here then." 

The " here " was an open " Kaffir truck," used 
only by the natives, and half full at the time with 
about as malodorous a collection of niggers as 
anyone would wish to see. 

" Come on," said the stationmaster, " the train 
is just going to start. In you go." 

But " Scotty " wasn't having any. One look, 
one sniff, sufficed. He ran like a deer along the 
platform, and jumped into the ordinary com- 
partment where we were with remarkable agility, 
and without the least difficulty. 

We had another good joke with " Scotty " in 
Johannesburg. An enterprising Jew tailor adver- 
tised forty-shilling suits for sale, and a day or two 
after we arrived I called at his shop and selected 
the cloth for a " made-to-measure " suit "for a 
friend." " He's a big chap, you know," I said. 
" No difference at all, sir," answered the tailor, 
" big men, or small men, the price is just the 
same — forty shillings." 

You should have seen that Israelite's face, 
however, when " Scotty " came round to be 
measured next day ; and when he found that a 
five-foot long tape wouldn't meet round his new 
customer's waistcoat he nearly had a fit. How- 
ever, he made the suit (but not for forty shillings) 



176 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

and exhibited it in his window afterwards : a good 
advertisement for him — and for us. 

I was greatly struck by the number of Indians 
in South Africa. They seem to be everywhere, 
and amongst them were some fairly clever 
conjurors; but nothing very much out of the 
common. Indeed, I am personally of opinion that 
the cleverness of the Indian conjurors has been 
very much overrated. 

In saying this I do not speak without know- 
ledge, for when I was in Colombo, Ceylon, where 
some of the cleverest conjuring fakirs are supposed 
to be, I made it my business to investigate the 
claims of quite a number of them. 

Some of the more marvellous tricks attributed 
to them I have no hesitation in saying are mere 
inventions, or hoaxes, bred of the credulity of 
too-easily-impressed Europeans. To this latter 
class belongs the famous boy and rope trick, of 
which everybody has heard, but which nobody, 
in my opinion, has ever seen. 

There are two versions of this alleged conjuring 
trick. One story makes the fakir throw a rope into 
the air, where it remains suspended ; if one may 
use the term, when there is presumably nothing up 
aloft for it to remain suspended from. The fakir 
then orders a small boy to climb the rope, which 
he does, afterwards drawing it up after him and 
vanishing with it into space, to presently reappear 
from somewhere behind the audience at the 
bidding of his master. 

Such a trick, performed after this fashion, would 
be quite wonderful enough, in fact seemingly 
unexplainable. But there is another, and in a 
sense even more wonderful version of the same 
trick, which has been frequently described in print 
by people who say they have seen it done. 



AFRICA AND THE ORIENT 177 

According to this story the fakir uses, not a 
rope, which presumably might be climbed sup- 
posing the upper free end were attached to 
anything strong enough to hold it, but a ball of 
thin twine, such as grocers use. This the conjuror 
throws up into the air, retaining the free end of the 
twine between his thumb and forefinger. The 
ball mounts higher and higher, growing gradually 
smaller and smaller as it mounts upwards and 
unravels, until it becomes a mere speck in the 
upper air, and ultimately vanishes altogether. 
Lastly the fakir releases the lower free end, and 
the string remains vertically suspended in the air 
as far as the eye can follow it. 

The fakir next begins to tug violently at the 
string as if to try and recover the vanished ball, 
but it refuses to yield an inch, and in affected rage 
he speaks a few words to a boy he has with him. 
The little fellow approaches in feigned reluctance, 
his eyes dilated with terror ; but, being urged on 
by curses and blows, he presently seizes the twine 
with both hands, and begins to climb up it. 

Up and up he ascends, growing gradually 
smaller until he is a scarcely discernible speck, 
apparently hundreds of feet from the ground. 
Then he too vanishes as completely as the ball 
has done. The fakir waits a few minutes, as if 
expecting the boy to return. Then he begins 
calling to him to come down. There is no answer, 
and the fakir flies into a pretended rage, takes a 
knife between his teeth, and himself climbs the 
string, vanishing in his turn as the boy had 
previously done. 

While the spectators are waiting in dumb 
amazement, wondering what is going to happen 
next, a distant shriek of pain and horror is wafted 
down from above. The next moment something 

N 



178 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

round and red comes hurtling downward from the 
sky. It is the head of the boy severed from the 
body, with quivering muscles and flowing blood, 
to prove that it is no figment of the fancy. 

Next one severed bleeding arm falls from the 
sky, and then another ; and these are followed by 
two legs, as neatly dismembered as if cut off by 
the knife of a skilful surgeon. Lastly, the fakir 
himself reappears climbing down the string and 
holding the dripping knife between his teeth. 

Calmly collecting the head and limbs he places 
them in his bag, throws it over his shoulder, and 
begins to walk away ; but before he has gone 
many paces the spectators notice a movement 
in the bag. The fakir thereupon places it on the 
ground, salaams, makes a few mystic passes with 
his hands and utters a few cabalistic words, and 
the boy emerges from it, smiling and as sound in 
body as ever. 

I have been at the trouble to recount these two 
versions of one and the same trick, because they 
are a source of perennial discussion amongst 
conjurors, professionals as well as amateurs. 
Personally, as I have already intimated, 1 utterly 
discredit the whole story. Yet I have, I am bound 
to say, met many people who hold the opposite 
view. I have even come across four or five people 
who profess to have seen the trick performed. 
While in India, and the East generally, the number 
of Europeans who know other Europeans who 
have seen the trick is legion. 

The best answer to these credulous ones is that 
the thing is impossible. Consequently no such 
trick has ever been performed. This, I may add, 
was the opinion of H.H. the Maharajah of 
Jodhpur, with whom I had a long conversation 
relative to the subject. And he ought to know, 



AFRICA AND THE ORIENT 179 

for His Highness is an authority on Indian 
conjurors, and Oriental magic generally, having, 
as he himself assured me, seen practically every 
native conjuror of note at one time or another. 
His opinion is that it is just a traveller's yarn, 
invented by Europeans for European consump- 
tion in the dim, far-off days when India was more 
or less a land of mystery, and handed down ever 
since as a sort of tradition from generation to 
generation. " I have yet to meet the educated 
native who believes the story/' were his con- 
cluding words. 

I myself have asked scores of native fakirs to 
perform the trick for me, but they all professed 
themselves unable to do so, although they 
assured me that it could and had been done. 
Acting on this information I once caused it to be 
proclaimed in Colombo that I would pay £100 — a 
fortune for a native — to anybody who would show 
me the trick. But the money was not claimed. 
The only even remotely plausible explanation I 
have ever heard of the mystery is that hypnotism 
is the agent. In other words, the spectator is 
mesmerised by the fakir into believing that he 
sees things which actually he does not see. But 
this, to my mind at all events, is the veriest non- 
sense imaginable. 

Another Indian conjuring trick round which a 
good deal of mystery has been made to centre is 
that in which a mango plant is produced by the 
fakir in the course of a few minutes from an 
ordinary dried mango seed. There is really, how- 
ever, nothing mysterious about this illusion ; to 
the professional conjuror, at all events. It is a 
sleight-of-hand trick pure and simple, and one 
which any of us could easily imitate, if we were 
so minded. 



180 TWENTY YFARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

The way it is worked is as follows. The fakir, 
with whom usually are two or three assistants, 
takes an ordinary mango seed inclosed in the 
dried husk, and hands it round for inspection. 
It is quite a fair-sized object, measuring some 
three inches in length by one and a half inches 
across. This he places in the ground in full view 
of the spectators, covering it with a little heaped- 
up pile of dry earth, which he scrapes together 
with his hands. 

Then he waves his loin cloth over it for a 
minute or so, to the accompaniment of weird 
incantations by himself and the beating of tom- 
toms by his assistants, and when he takes it away 
a couple of inches of green growing plant is seen 
to have burst its way out of the earth. Again the 
performance is repeated, and when the cloth is 
removed the green shoot is seen to have increased 
in height to fully six inches. A third time, and it 
is now nine inches. Whereupon the fakir calls 
a temporary halt, pulls the plant out of the ground 
and passes it round for inspection, showing the 
tendrils of the root, and the seed bursted in 
growing. Afterwards he replaces the mango 
plant into the ground, and continues his incanta- 
tions and cloth waving until — assuming a suffi- 
ciency of annas and pice are forthcoming— it 
attains to the dimensions of a small tree, four feet 
or more in height. 

Now I came to the conclusion, after having seen 
this performance repeated once or twice, that it 
was just an ordinary conjuring trick, dependent 
for success on ordinary sleight-of-hand, and quick, 
clever palming, and I determined to prove it to 
my own satisfaction. So one day in Colombo, 
while I and some friends were idling away the time 
outside our hotel, and a fakir came along and 



AFRICA AND THE ORIENT 181 

offered to perform the trick for us, I put into 
execution a plan I had formed. 

The fakir asked two rupees as his fee for the 
performance. 

11 I'll give you five rupees/' I said, " if you will 
let me plant the seed." 

The man at once agreed, and handed me the 
seed, which I pretended to plant in the ordinary 
way and cover with earth. Then I told him to go 
ahead with his show, and took up my position 
immediately behind him. 

Prior to this I had arranged with one of my 
friends who possessed a camera to take a snapshot 
of me directly I raised my hand, and this I 
presently did, choosing a moment when the mango 
plant had " grown " to about a foot high. In my 
open hand was the mango seed the fakir had given 
me, and which I had palmed, unbeknown to him, 
while pretending to plant it. 

Consequently he had by his incantations per- 
suaded his mango tree to grow up from a seed 
which was not there. This, I think, effectually 
disposes of the arguments of those who hold that 
these fakirs do actually cause the seed to sprout 
and grow by the use of some secret chemical, or 
other fructifying agent, known only to themselves. 

The real truth is that they have concealed about 
their persons, or their belongings — sacks, etc. — 
several mango trees in different stages of growth, 
the leaves folded up very small and tied together 
with cotton. The rest, of course, is merely a 
matter of clever palming, and of diverting the 
attention of their audiences at the critical moment ; 
at both of which arts, I am bound to say, they are 
exceedingly clever. 

I may add that I kept the mango seed I palmed, 
and I have it now. The fakir never missed it 



182 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

when he came to gather up the earth and stuff and 
put it back in his bag. Or at all events if he did 
he judged it best to say nothing of his loss. 

Before quitting Colombo I may say that one of 
the things that most interested and impressed 
me there was the curious Tree of Life, so called, 
exhibited in the arboricultural museum attached 
to the Mount Lavinia Gardens, and the leaves of 
which seem to be endowed with the faculty of 
locomotion, in that they crawl about like insects. 
I was also struck with my first view of a cobra and 
mongoose fight, arranged for our delectation by 
one of the many showmen fakirs who abound 
there. I never saw anything like the rapidity of 
the movements of the combatants. Greased 
lightning, as our American friends would say, was 
not in it. Of course the fangs of the snake had 
been previously extracted, and presumably the 
teeth of the mongoose had been similarly dealt 
with. Anyway neither seemed any the worse for 
the encounter, which indeed they seemed rather 
to enjoy, just as a couple of trained boxers might 
enjoy a friendly bout with each other. 






CHAPTER XIII 

WHEEZES AND GAGS 

The social side of music-hall life — The Vaudeville Club — A tele- 
phone wheeze — The swanking " pro." and his mythical 
salary — About " tops " and " bottoms " — Ring up " 625 
Chiswick " — " Big Fred " and Fred Lindrum — A queer 
billiard match — An unexpected denouement — Roberts and 
the Australian billiard marker — I make of myself a human 
telescope — Growing to order — Willard the original " man 
who grew " — Puzzling a Scotland Yard " 'tec " — My most 
wonderful fall — I make a " hit " in a double sense — A 
Wigan wheeze — The performer who got too much " bird " — 
A blood-thirsty barber — My worst insult. 

THE social side of the music-hall artiste's 
life centres largely round the Vaudeville 
Club in the Charing Cross Road, and 
which is owned and run by the Water Rats, of 
which I am proud to be a member. 

I recall a very funny little incident that hap- 
pened here not long since. A lot of us were in 
the place, some playing billiards, some chatting 
together, etc., when there entered a certain well- 
known " pro." who was notorious for swanking 
about the big salaries he commanded. 

Going into the telephone-box, and carefully 
leaving the door ajar, so that we could hear what 
he was saying, he rang up a number, and the 
following one-sided dialogue took place. 

" Hello !— Hello, I say !— Is that you, Mr. So- 
and-So ? " 

(We pricked up our ears at this, for the name 
he mentioned was that of one of the biggest men 
in the music-hall world.) 

183 



184 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

" Oh, it is ? — Good ! — About Monday next. 
I — eh ? I say about Monday next. I got your 
letter this morning. Thanks ! But two hundred 
pounds a week is no good to me." 

(We gasped, and looked at one another.) 

" Eh !— What's that ?— You'll make it two 
hundred and fifty pounds ? Not good enough, 
old chap. Ha ! Ha ! My terms are three hundred 
pounds a week, or nothing doing." 

(Everybody craned forward their necks, listen- 
ing intently.) 

' What ? I can't hear you very plainly. That's 
better. Oh ! You'll make it three hundred pounds ? 
Very well. Have the contract ready to-morrow 
for me to sign." 

Ring off. 

Exit Mr. Swanker from the telephone-box. He 
strolls nonchalantly to the bar. 

" Have a drink, boys ? " 

We assent. 

Enter the then manager of the club, Mr. Case. 
" Excuse me, sir, but that telephone has been out 
of order since yesterday ; we're expecting a man 
in to see to it directly." 

Sudden and complete exit from the club of Mr. 
Swanker, followed by a roar of laughter from all 
the other members. 

I may add that a " pro.'s " salary, his real salary 
that is to say, is always a jealously guarded secret. 
Ask, and you generally get told a lie. The public 
hardly ever knows, in fact I might almost say 
it never knows. Newspaper " pars " are no 
criterion. Neither is the position of an artiste's 
name on the bill. " Tops " and " bottoms " are 
supposed to be the " star turn " positions. But 
I myself have topped the bill at £5 a week in my 
early days, with artistes getting £50 a week in very 



WHEEZES AND GAGS 185 

much smaller type below mc. In fact the very 
first bill I ever topped I got £5 only, and it 
cost me about £3 in tips to stage hands and 
others to live up to my that week's (supposed) 
reputation. 

Another little Vaudeville Club telephone w T heeze ! 
We were sitting in the smoke-room one day, when 
a member was smitten with a sudden brilliant 
idea. Going to the box he rang up about a score 
of well-known " pro.'s," and told each one who 
answered his call to ring up " 625 Chiswick." 
: You're wanted there badly," he explained. 

When he had finished we made a dive for the 
telephone directory, and turned up " 625 Chis- 
wick." 

Then we did a grin. It was the number of 
Wormwood Scrubs Prison ! 

After an interval our club telephone-bell started 
a perfect crescendo of violent rings many times 
repeated, and I'm told that the language that 
came on the wire from the victims of the joke 
ought to have shattered the receiver. 

What the Governor of Wormwood Scrubs 
thought (or said) about the affair I have no means 
of knowing. But I can guess. 

Yet another amusing happening at the Vaude- 
ville Club occurs to me. There chanced to 
saunter in there one afternoon a member known 
as " Big Fred," a Leeds man, who rather fancies 
himself at billiards. There was also in the club 
at the same time Fred Lindrum, the Australian 
champion. 

The latter was known to everybody there — 
excepting Big Fred. The conversation was 
purposely switched on to billiards, and presently 
a match, for drinks round, was got up between the 
tw r o Freddies, the champion having previously 



186 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

let it be known to the rest of us that he would not 
attempt to show his real form until his opponent 
and he had each made about seventy, when he 
would wade in and run out. 

" Seventy all ! " called the marker. 

We rubbed our hands, and smiled. " Cod " 
bets flew round as thickly as bees in a clover- 
bed in summer. Big Fred, suspecting nothing, 
was quite proud of the sensation the match 
was creating. Lindrum winked at us solemnly 
behind his opponent's back. It was his turn to 
play. 

" Now the fun begins/ ' we whispered to each 
other. 

The champion played several perfect shots in 
succession, scoring twenty or so. Then he tried 
an exhibition stroke, and missed by a hair's 
breadth. 

Big Fred took up the running, scoring eighteen, 
an unusually big break for him, and leaving the 
balls in a well-nigh impossible position. Lindrum 
did his best, but failed. Then Big Fred ran 
out. 

We looked at one another in blank amazement. 
The impossible had happened. The Australian 
champion had been beaten, and by a third-rate 
amateur. 

" Have another game ? " said Big Fred. 

" I don't mind," answered Lindrum. 

Big Fred was beaming all over, immensely 
pleased with himself. " I'll give you ten start this 
time," he said. 

There was a perfect roar of laughter at this. 
We simply couldn't help it. Big Fred was a good 
deal puzzled. Also he was somewhat nettled. 
He couldn't understand what we were laughing 
at. 



WHEEZES AND GAGS 187 

" I'll bet any of you chaps a quid I win this 

pinu 1 also," he cried. 

" Done ! " exclaimed half a dozen voices simul- 
taneously, mine amongst them. 

Of course the bets were " cod " bets in a sense. 
That is to say, we should not in any event have 
taken Big Fred's money. But he, on the other 
hand, had a perfect right to demand ours — if he 
won. But we did not stop to consider that side of 
the question. We were so perfectly cocksure that 
he would lose — this time. 

But he didn't. By one of those million-to-one 
chances that do occasionally come off, he beat 
Lindrum a second time. Whereupon the champion 
broke his cue across his knee in a sudden gust of 
temper. 

Big Fred regarded him in amazement. " Why, 
whatever 's the matter ? " he inquired. Then we 
told him who his opponent really was. 

" Well, I'm d d ! " was all he could say. 

The next day Lindrum made over eight hundred 
in one break in an exhibition match against a 
brother professional at Thurston's, and Big Fred, 
who was present, called out rapturously at the 
conclusion of the play : " That's the chap I gave 
ten start to and beat." 

Chorus of sceptics, who knew nothing of the 
previous day's incident : 

" Liar ! " 

Here is another billiard story, which so far as 
I know has never before appeared in print, but 
which was being retailed in all the bars in Mel- 
bourne at the time I was there, and which I was 
assured relates an actual fact. 

Roberts was going to Melbourne to play Inman, 
and found himself stranded at Perth (Australia) 
with two days to wait for a boat. Accordingly, 



188 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

with an eye to business, he went into the billiard- 
room of the principal hotel there to see whether 
there was any chance of arranging an exhibition 
match. 

Boy Marker (a smart, well-set-up lad) : " Have 
a game, sir ? " 
Roberts : " No, thanks ! " 

B.M. : " Oh, come, now. Be a sport. I'll give 
you fifty in a hundred." 

R. (with dignity) : " I'm Roberts." 

B.M. (genially) : " Doesn't matter, sir, who you 
are. I give fifty in a hundred to all the folks 
round here." 

R. (with increased dignity) : " I'm Roberts, I 
tell you. The champion." 

B.M. (after a pause for consideration) : "Oh, 
well, sir, if that's so I can only give you thirty in a 
hundred." 

Speaking of billiards, I was once playing 
principal comedian at the Prince of Wales' 
Theatre, Birmingham, when Inman and Stevenson 
— the latter of whom was then world's champion — 
were there, and we got very pally together. 

At this period George Gray had just come over 
from Australia, and was creating a big sensation 
in billiard circles by his wonderful breaks off the 
red. 

I noticed that whenever I introduced either 
Stevenson or Inman to anybody, the first words 
they uttered almost invariably were, " What do 
you think of George Gray ? " 

Now it happened that on the termination of my 
engagement in Birmingham the three of us, 
Stevenson, Inman, and myself, travelled up to 
London together. It was a corridor train, and 
quite a number of " pro.'s " I knew were aboard 
it, though not in our compartment. 



WHEEZES AND GAGS 189 

" Now look here, you two," I said, " I'll bet 
you five shillings a time thai ;m\ body I happen to 
present to you will ask you what you think of 
George Gray." 

1 Agreed ! " they said, and a minute or two later 
a man I knew happened along the corridor. I 
called him into our compartment, introduced him, 
and sure enough he promptly rapped out the usual 
question. 

So did the second man, and third. I had won 
fifteen shillings. Thereupon Stevenson suggested 
that the next bet should be one for a sovereign. 

Of course I raised no objection, and soon another 
professional friend of mine was roped into the 
compartment and introduced. He was an 
enthusiast on billiards, and he talked at great 
length about the game, recalling many big breaks 
made by the two players in days gone by. Not a 
word about George Gray, though ! I began to get 
uneasy. By the terms of our bet I was not allowed 
to mention the young Australian player by name, 
but I did my best to lead the conversation in his 
direction by making such remarks as, " You made 
a break off the red yesterday, Stevenson, didn't 

you ? " 

All to no purpose, however ; and my two 
travelling companions both laughed heartily when 
my friend eventually left without having asked the 
required question. 

But when we reached London, Stevenson pro- 
posed that we should pool the £1 15s. and buy a 
couple of bottles of wine, explaining that he had 
previously squared the last friend to whom I had 
introduced him — and who also happened to be a 
friend of his — telling him on no account to ask 
him " What do you think of George Gray ? " 

This story, by the way, reminds me of another 



igo TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

concerning Reece, who was equally good at 
swimming and billiards. He, too, got very tired 
of hearing the same query addressed to him ; but 
the climax was reached one day when he was 
training for his attempt to swim the Channel. He 
was swimming about twelve miles out when a 
stranger swam up to him and, treading water 
vigorously, called out, " Hullo ! You're Reece, 
aren't you ? What d'ye think of George Gray ? ' 

Somewhere in the Bible is the following text : 

" Can a man, by taking thought, add one cubit 
unto his stature ? " 

The Hebrew chronicler who propounded this 
query evidently thought that there could be but 
one answer to it. In fact he did not really regard 
it, I suppose, in the nature of a query at all. He 
meant to say that the thing was utterly impossible 
a feat that could not be accomplished under any 
conceivable circumstances. 

Herein he was right. For the Hebrew cubit, 
according to the best authorities, was probably 
not less than about eighteen inches long ; and one 
may say at once that it is still impossible, as it was 
then, for a man — either by taking thought or in 
any other way — to add a foot and a half to his 
stature. 

On the other hand, it is quite possible to 
temporarily increase one's height between seven 
and eight inches. I know, because I have done 
it ; and, moreover, the increase in height, though 
it cannot be sustained for any great length of time, 
is perfectly real while it lasts. 

It is accomplished mainly by stretching the 
muscles of the knees, hips, chest, throat, and other 
parts of the body, and maintaining them rigidly 
in that position by what is more or less an 
exercise of will-power. Of this feat I do not 



WHEEZES AND GAGS 191 

protend to be the originator. A man named 
Willard, an American! did the same 4 thing in the 
States. I learnt the trick from him, or rather I 
should say thai I go1 the idea of it from seeing him 
do it ; and so far as I am aware I am the only man, 
other than Willard himself, who has succeeded in 
accomplishing it. 

For it must not be imagined that it is an easy 
thing to do. On the contrary, it is exceedingly 
difficult. It is also apt to be dangerous. Willard, 
not long since, overstrained himself while practis- 
ing it one day ; and I myself have found the ill 
effects so pronounced that I never produced the 
feat — as was my original intention — in public, and 
I now only perform it very occasionally in private 
for the benefit of my friends. 

How I first came to know about it was this way. 
Inman, the billiard champion, was visiting my 
house, and he brought Willard with him. After 
lunch we strolled out on the lawn, and I suddenly 
noticed that my American guest had apparently 
grown taller ; as indeed, of course, he had. 
Naturally, however, I put it down to my fancy. 
But a minute or so later, on looking up suddenly 
from a flower I had been examining, I saw that he 
was taller than ever, and I suppose I looked the 
amazement I felt. Anyway, Inman and he burst 
out laughing, and the former then introduced 
Willard as " The Man Who Grows." 

Afterwards Mr. Willard was good enough to 
explain his method to me, and that night, after 
my guests had gone, I started practising on my 
own account. While I was at it, and still more 
after I had finished, I felt something of the 
sensation experienced in the olden days by 
criminals on the rack. Every bone, muscle, and 
sinew in my body ached ; every nerve seemed on 



192 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

the quiver. But I persevered ; and in time I 
succeeded. 

I found, however, that the difficulty of the feat, 
and incidentally its attendant pain and discomfort, 
increased enormously with each additional inch. 
The first one was not so bad. But putting its 
difficulties, etc., at, say, ten, then those inseparable 
from the next inch of increase were fully one 
hundred ; the third inch was represented by one 
thousand, and so on. In short, it resolved itself 
into a case of what mathematicians call, I believe, 
geometrical progression. 

For these reasons I should not recommend the 
ordinary man to attempt the feat. He may easily 
do himself a serious inquiry. The strain told 
hardly on me, as I have already said. 

I may mention that I have succeeded in 
mystifying a good many people by this growing 
feat, including at least one famous Scotland Yard 
detective. I was playing billiards with him, and 
an argument arose as to our relative heights. He 
was a tall man, measuring over six feet in his 
stockings, which is also my normal height. His 
impression was that he was taller than I, and to 
settle the point we adjourned to a police station 
and were measured by a machine that they kept 
there for recording the heights of criminals. 

He, of course, measured his ordinary six feet 
odd. I stretched myself ever so slightly, and of 
course without any apparent effort, and beat him 
by two inches. " Well/' he exclaimed, " I should 
never have thought it ! " " Oh/' I retorted, " I 
believe it's the fault of that old machine of 
yours. It doesn't record accurately. I'm taller 
than that." 

"Oh, that's nonsense!" he replied hotly. 
" Thousands of criminals have been measured by 





- x 

< < 

H S 



*" S5 

o 




WHEEZES AND GAGS 193 

it, some of them several times over and on 
different occasions, but the measurements never 
vary by more than the minutest fraction of 
an inch. I'll bet you anything you like you're 
wrong." 

Of course, I wasn't going to bet on a certainty, 
so I simply said that I thought he was mistaken, 
and, placing myself on the platform of the machine, 
I invited him to readjust the measuring-arm. 
This time it stood at six feet four inches. 

" Well, I'll be hanged ! " he ejaculated, in blank 
amazement. " This beats everything. I can't 
understand it." " Nor can I," I replied gravely, 
" because by rights I should measure six feet 
six inches. Will you please try again ? " 

Too astonished to reply, he proceeded to do as 
I had asked. The measuring-arm registered six 
feet six and a half inches. " Half an inch too 
much," I said. " Your machine's no good." 

By this time my detective friend hardly knew 
whether he was standing on his head or his heels. 
He was dumbfounded — flabbergasted. So, taking 
pity on him, I explained to him how it was 
done. 

" Well," he remarked thoughtfully, after he had 
recovered somewhat from his astonishment, " I 
hope the knowledge of how to accomplish the feat 
won't spread among the criminal fraternity, for 
if it does the Anthropometrical Department at 
Scotland Yard may as well close down." 

As I have previously intimated, I don't perform 
the above feat in public for fear of straining 
myself. There are plenty of ordinary ways in 
which a man can hurt himself in my business, 
without looking about for extraordinary ways. 
For instance, I once came an awful cropper on the 
stage through no fault of my own. 



i 9 4 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

It was at the Victoria Palace, London, where 
I was performing for the first time with a giant. 
I had also with me my contortionist, and I 
thought it would be a good gag for me, on my 
being suddenly confronted with the big man, to 
throw up my hands above my head, utter an 
exclamation of surprise, and fall over back- 
wards. 

This I did, having previously instructed my 
contortionist to be behind me, so as to catch me 
as I fell. But he didn't do it. He forgot all about 
it, and walked away to the wings. The conse- 
quence was that I turned a half summersault, and 
alighted on the back of my head with a resound- 
ing thwack that was heard plainly all over the 
theatre. 

There were shrieks of laughter from everywhere 
— pit, stalls, and gallery. I didn't laugh though. 
Neither did my contortionist later on, when I got 
him by himself. Meanwhile I was suffering from 
slight concussion, and reeled to and fro about the 
stage like a drunken man. This caused more 
laughter. I had hardly ever made such a hit 
before ; a " hit," I may say, in a double sense. 

I went through the rest of my show with a lump 
on the back of my head that was really the bigness 
of a hen's egg, and which seemed to me to be 
about the size of an ostrich egg, and " still grow- 
ing." When I had finished, George Barclay, who 
was then my agent, and who chanced to be in 
front, came round on purpose to congratulate 

me. 

" It was great," he said. " I never saw a funnier 
or more natural fall in my life." 

" Oh, that's nothing," I replied airily. " Didn't 
you ever see me do that before ? " 

" No," he said, " I never did." 



WHEEZES AND GAGS 195 

" No," I thought to myself, " and you'll never 
see me do ii again." 

After that i (iii that part of my show, nor did 
I fever again rely on being caught behind my back 
by a man 1 couldn't see, and who might or might 
not be there. 

Of course it is easy enough for a trained athlete 
to fall, if he knows he is going to fall. I myself can 
fall twenty or thirty feet without hurting myself. 
Only on this occasion I didn't know. A man can 
give himself a nasty jar, or even injure himself 
pretty severely, by merely stepping off a kerb, if he 
doesn't know the kerb is there. 

There are other directions in which an artiste's 
life is not exactly all beer and skittles. A young 
friend of mine found this out on his first visit to 
Wigan. His was not a bad turn of its kind, but 
Wigan is notoriously a " hard " town to work for 
artistes hailing from the south of England, and the 
people there didn't at all appreciate his particular 
business. Monday night was a dead frost. He 
didn't get a hand. 

He couldn't make it out, and he went round to 
the front entrance as the people were streaming out 
in order to try and overhear what the audience 
really thought about his show. Of course, they 
didn't recognise him without his make-up. Not 
that it would have mattered much, probably, if 
they had. 

The poor chap heard enough. Those who 
weren't slating his performance, were asking each 
other what Wigan had done to have such a " dud " 
as he was dumped down there. Next night he got 
the bird. On Wednesday he got more bird. On 
Thursday he got most bird. On Friday morning 
he decided to take a long walk into the country, 
and try and forget it all. 



196 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

He walked, and walked. Presently he came 
to a village. A barber's pole sticking out caught 
his eye, and he turned into the shop to get a 
shave. 

Barber : " 'Ast bin t'Empire at Wigan this 
week, laad ? " 

Pro. (shortly) : " No, I haven't/' 

Barber: "Well, aw did. And aw saw a turn 
there, worst aw iver saw. If he comes in here 
aw'll cut his bloomin' throat ! " 

Personally I think the worst insult I ever 
suffered was rubbed into me while I was per- 
forming at Glasgow, very early in my career. 
I was working at the old Tivoli and Queen's, a 
very rough house. I had to give two shows a 
night for £5 a week, and the return fare from 
London cost me £3 6s. 

Friday was amateur night there. That is to say 
that on that evening the first performance com- 
menced an hour or so earlier than usual, and all 
sorts of budding " pro.'s," or people who imagined 
themselves " pros," were encouraged to come on 
the boards and make exhibitions of themselves. 

Well, the people there didn't approve of my 
show. My prize jokes were received in dead 
silence. My best gags evoked no responsive 
laugh. Finally a voice from the gallery rang out 
clear and shrill : 

" Gang awa, hame, mon, and come agen on 
Friday nicht." 

Another time I was touring the provinces with a 
cinematograph show depicting the destruction of 
Pompeii. In between I would give exhibitions of 
conjuring, card-manipulation, and so on. 

These latter, however, were more in the nature 
of fill-ups. The moving pictures was supposed 
to be the real attraction. It had cost a lot of 



WHEEZES AND GAGS 197 

money to film, and in those days it was thought 
to be a wonderful production. 

It is the custom of showmen running these sort 
of mixed entertainments in small provincial 
towns to stand at the entrance to the hall at the 
conclusion of the show and be introduced by the 
manager to the people he knows as they are 
leaving the building. 

One evening I was introduced after this fashion 
to a typical old Yorkshire farmer. 

" Good evening, sir," I said, using the accepted 
formula for such occasions, " I hope you enjoyed 
the show." 

" Well," he replied dubiously, " I don't know 
about that. The conjuring was all reet. But that 
there moving picture wur a fraud." 

I explained to him that it represented the very 
last word in cinematography, and had cost a small 
fortune to produce, as indeed it had. 

" Garn ! " retorted the old chap, " tha can't 
kid me. They never 'ad cinematographs in them 
days." 

In 1912 I was appearing at the Palace Theatre, 
Lincoln. I was running the show with my own 
company on sharing terms, so that it was to my 
interest to draw as full houses as possible. 

At this time the " hidden treasure " craze was at 
its height, and the idea struck me that I might as 
well utilise it for my show. 

So I used to announce, prior to opening, that 
instead of paying £50 for "turns" on my bill, 
I proposed to give away this sum amongst my 
audiences during the ensuing week. 

To this end I had a number of vouchers printed 
announcing that " the finder will receive £1 on 
presenting this paper to Carlton at the Palace 
Theatre during the evening performance." These 



198 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

I would take out secretly at dead of night, and hide 
in various likely and unlikely spots, my usual 
method being to fold them up into quite a small 
compass, and run a drawing-pin through them. 
By these means I was able to pin them underneath 
a seat where I happened to be sitting, say in a park, 
for instance, or any other public place, without 
attracting attention. At other times I would 
pretend to hide the vouchers in various places 
where I knew people were watching me and then 
watch them vainly searching for the thing that 
was not there. It was great fun. 

Of course I did not invariably pin them under 
seats. I hid them here, there, and everywhere, 
all over the place. People used to follow me about 
in the day-time, in order to try and spot where I 
put them. But, needless to say, they were never 
successful. I saw to that. Still, it was all good 
advertisement, and it was fun for me to watch 
them digging and searching for my vouchers miles 
away from where I had hidden them. 

I used to give out clues from the stage at each 
performance, giving very easy ones the first night 
or two, and making them more obscure and 
difficult as the week wore on. Whenever a voucher 
was found, I used to have the finder up on the 
stage, and get him to sign it with his name and 
address, and these were afterwards pinned up 
outside the theatre, so that the public could see 
that my offer was a genuine one. 

Well, it so happened that at Lincoln, while I 
was working this stunt, the late B. C. Hucks, the 
famous Daily Mail flying man, who, it will be 
remembered, was the first Englishman to loop the 
loop, was holding an aviation meeting there. 
I invited him to the theatre, and suggested that I 
should have him up on the stage and introduce 



WHEEZES AND GAGS 199 

him to the audience. " It will be a good ' advert.' 
for you," I told him. 

Hucks willingly agreed. But he did not know 
what was in my mind. Otherwise, perhaps, he 
might not have fallen in with the suggestion so 
readily. For when I got him on the stage, and 
after introducing him to the people in front, 
where needless to say he received an enormous 
ovation, I went on to say that " Mr. Hucks had 
very kindly consented to take me up in his 
aeroplane on the day following, and that I would 
throw down ten £1 vouchers for the crowd to 
scramble for." 

" That's so, isn't it, Mr. Hucks ? " I said at the 
conclusion of my speech, turning to him and 
shaking him by the hand ; and poor Hucks, taken 
off his guard, could do no more than nod a smiling 
assent. But all the while, under his breath, he 
was addressing remarks the reverse of compli- 
mentary to me. 

Next day I was at the aerodrome to time. Hucks 
was there. I half hoped that he wouldn't have 
been. I had had time to reflect overnight, and 
I didn't at all relish the experience I was up 
against. For flying in those days, the reader must 
remember, was not by any means the safe and easy 
thing it has since become. Nor were the aero- 
planes then what they are now. In fact the early 
types were just big, power-driven box-kites. 

However, I was in for it, and up we went. I was 
in a blue funk, and when Hucks, after circling 
round two or three times, asked me if I had dropped 
the vouchers, I replied that I had forgotten all 
about them. Which was the fact. 

So round we went once more, and I threw them 
out. " There goes ten pounds," I said to myself, 
and groaned in spirit. But I need not have 



200 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

worried. We were several thousand feet up, and 
the wind caught the flimsy pieces of paper and 
blew them heaven knows where. Not one of them 
was ever presented. 

A story occurs to me as I write, which I will 
call " The Biter Bit." It concerns the brothers 
Egbert, better known as the " Happy Dustmen. " 
These two are probably about the most confirmed 
practical jokers on the music-hall stage. They 
are for ever playing tricks on somebody. Every- 
body in the profession knows this, and conse- 
quently tries to avoid sharing a dressing-room 
with them. 

Well, these two found out somewhere how to 
make a substance which, smeared on anything, 
will explode on being touched, even ever so 
lightly. They tried it first on Bransby Williams 
at the Sheffield Hippodrome, smearing a quantity 
on a seat. When he sat down, it exploded with 
a report like a bomb, and poor Bransby leapt 
about six feet, imagining that there was an air 
raid on. 

But this was only a trial spin, so to speak. The 
following week the two practical jokers were at 
the Hippodrome, Portsmouth, where they shared 
a dressing-room with Harry Claff, known as the 
1 White Knight. " Harry had not, as it happened, 
heard of the Sheffield incident, but the reputation 
of the Brothers Egbert in the matter of practical 
joking was, of course, well known to him, so that 
he was on his guard. 

The brothers tried hard to get him away from 
their dressing-room after rehearsing together on 
the Monday, so that they could put some of the 
explosive stuff on his seat, his grease paints, his 
make-up box — anywhere, in short, where he would 
be sure to handle it or come in contact with it. 



WHEEZES AND GAGS 201 

But try as they would, they could not succeed. 
Harry stuck to them too tightly. 

At length the three of them left the theatre to 
go to their respective diggings. The brothers saw 
Harry to his. Then Seth Egbert slipped hurriedly 
back to the dressing-room, and started smearing 
the stuff all over Gaff's various belongings. Now 
every theatrical dressing-room is provided with a 
mirror, and just as Seth had finished baiting his 
trap he happened to glance up into this mirror, 
and there, clearly reflected, was the face of Harry 
Gaff, an amused grin on his face. Suspecting 
that the brothers were up to something, he had 
followed Seth back to the theatre, and caught him 
in the act. 

I had the curiosity to inquire of the brothers 
how they made the stuff. Here is their formula ; 
but if any of my readers contemplate making any 
of it, with a view to playing tricks on anybody, 
I warn them to be very, very careful, as the com- 
pound is exceedingly dangerous, being one of the 
most powerful explosives known, and used exten- 
sively in the late war. 

You take sixpennyworth of flaked iodine and 
one pennyworth of 88 ammonia, together with a 
sheet of filter paper. Put a small piece of iodine 
on the filter paper held over a tin can, and pour 
over it enough ammonia to dissolve it into a paste. 
This, smeared while wet on any hard substance, 
such as the handle of a door, for instance, will 
explode — when dry — with quite a violent report 
directly anyone touches it. But no more than the 
tiniest piece, about the size of a pin's head, must 
be used. 

Which reminds me, by the way, that a small 
piece of metallic sodium thrown into a bath of 
water, or into a river where anyone is fishing, will 



202 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

zigzag about all over the place in the most erratic 
fashion. Only, don't use too much sodium ; a 
piece about the size of a threepenny-piece will 
work wonders, causing great astonishment and 
roars of laughter amongst the uninitiated. 



CHAPTER XIV 

THE BIGGEST NEWSPAPER SPOOF ON RECORD 

How the great spoof first came into my mind — Hoaxing the 
newspaper Press of two continents — Telepathy and thought- 
transference — The incredulous reporter — I propose a drastic 
test — A representative of the Bristol Times and Mirror hides 
a stylograph pen in an unknown quarter of the city — I am 
blindfolded and find it — Amazement and enthusiasm of the 
people — A column report in the newspaper — An insoluble 
problem — Various theories as to how it was done — An indoors 
test imposed by the Editor of the Bath Chronicle — Blind- 
folded through the streets of Bath — Vast crowds — I am 
again successful — Press and public alike bewildered — Hoax- 
ing the Yankees — The Oakland, California, Tribune's test — 
Two hundred and fifty dollars in gold hidden — The Secretary 
of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce is chosen to secrete 
the treasure — Again I am successful — My best free Press 
" ad." — Congratulations all round. 

THE idea of the " great spoof," the most 
colossal thing of its kind, I venture to 
assert, ever perpetrated on the Press 
and public of two continents, first suggested itself 
to my mind in February, 1907, when I was 
playing in pantomime at the Prince's Theatre, 
Bristol. 

I was being interviewed by a representative of 
the Bristol Times and Mirror, and the conversa- 
tion turned on the alleged telepathic feats of the 
Zancigs, then at the height of their popularity. 
The newspaper man opined that there must be 
" something in " the theory of occultism in 
connection with their exhibition ; that they were 
possessed of a sixth sense, for example. 

I hotly traversed this view of the matter, but 
eventually, after some further argument, I pre- 

203 



204 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

tended to agree that possibly telepathy, or 
thought-transference, might afford a clue to the 
solution of the so-called mystery. This I did for 
an ulterior motive of my own, and in pursuance 
of a plan that was beginning to shape itself in my 
mind ; for I do not really believe in telepathy, 
thought-transference, mind-reading — call it what 
you will. Presently, in the course of the conversa- 
tion, came the cue question I had been waiting 
for, and which I had gradually led up to, though 
without appearing to do so. 

" Can you read a man's thoughts ? " asked the 
reporter. 

" Yes," I replied boldly ; " given certain 
conditions, I can." 

The reporter sniffed incredulously. I pretended 
to get huffed. 

" Look here ! " I burst forth, as though struck 
by a sudden inspiration. " In order to prove to 
you that I can read yours, I am willing to submit 
to a test ; the most drastic, almost, that it is 
possible to conceive. You shall take some small 
article and hide it in any part of the city you like, 
and I will go to where you have hidden it, and 
find it. Moreover, I will allow you to blindfold me 
in such a manner that it is impossible for me to see 
to find my way to the spot where you have hidden 
the object, even if I knew where the locality was 
or in which direction it lay. All I ask is that you 
shall walk behind me and mentally direct me 
which way to go. You must fix your whole 
attention on the quest, that is to say, and exert all 
your will-power to guide me aright. This is all I 
ask. The rest is my business. There will be no 
word spoken between us, no questions asked or 
answered, and, of course, no personal contact. In 
fact, I should prefer that you remain always at 



BIGGEST NEWSPAPER SPOOF 205 

some distance behind me ; say, for instance, five 
or six paces." 



The sequel to the above conversation came a 
week later, when on February 5th, 1907, I found a 
stylograph pen which had been previously hidden 
by the reporter in the axle of one of the old 
Russian guns on Brandon Hill. Of course the 
affair w T as well boomed beforehand — I saw to 
that — and fully three thousand people (according 
to the report in the Evening Times of the above 
date) were on the hill when I made the discovery, 
while a crowd of at least two thousand watched 
my start from the Prince's Theatre, after my eyes 
had been tightly bandaged with a dark blue silk 
handkerchief folded in ten thicknesses, and 
stitched together to prevent any slipping. The 
width of this bandage was about four inches, 
completely covering my eyes, and, in order to 
make assurance doubly sure, I had each eye 
covered under the bandage with a separate pad of 
cotton-wool, pressed well down into the sockets. 

Thus blindfolded I groped and blundered my 
way along several streets. Once I ran into a tram- 
car. Four times I fell down. But — I found the 
pen. And so delighted were the crowd at my 
success, that they seized me and carried me 
shoulder high to the Prince's Theatre. The full 
report of the affair, as published in the newspaper, 
occupied over a column ; and the reporter 
professed himself completely puzzled as to how 
I accomplished the feat, as indeed doubtless 
he was. 

Yet the whole business was a spoof from start 
to finish, so far, that is to say, as regards there 
being any question of telepathy or thought- 



206 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

transference. But it was a spoof engineered 
entirely by myself, and off my own bat, so to 
speak. In other words, there was no collusion, 
direct or indirect, between me and anybody else 
connected with the affair. Nor, as a matter of fact 
had I the remotest idea, when I set out on my 
quest, whereabouts the pen was hidden, nor indeed 
in what quarter of the city. In the circumstances, 
therefore, I think the reader will admit that the 
feat was, on the face of it, a sufficiently marvellous 
one. 

I was blindfolded. I was in a strange city, 
where the streets and turnings I had to traverse 
and take were necessarily totally unfamiliar to me. 
Let the reader turn the problem about in his own 
mind, and try if he can reach any plausible 
solution of the mystery. I make bold to say that 
he will fail, as the good people of Bristol failed, 
and as many thousands of other people failed 
before whom I was presently to give other similar 
exhibitions in various parts of the world. 

Telepathy was the explanation most generally 
tendered, both then and afterwards, and I have 
in my possession letters from members of the 
Psychical Research Society warning me against 
repeating the experiment on account of the strain 
on my " psychic personality/' which might, so 
they averred, have unlooked-for and dangerous 
results. That the ordeal I voluntarily underwent 
was a trying, not to say nerve-racking, one was 
perfectly true. I felt it mentally and physically 
for weeks afterwards. Nevertheless, as I have 
already intimated, telepathy did not enter into 
the matter at all. Exactly how the trick was 
worked I shall take occasion to explain later on. 
Suffice it to say here that I afterwards spoofed 
the Press and public on the same lines over and 






SECOND SECTION 



®akiatt& w 



VOL. I XXVI 



OAKLAND. CALIFORNIA. WLDNK'-iOAY tVI 



FAMINE FOLLOWS FEMFUl 

BLINDFOLDED MAGICIAN TO SEARCH IN 
OAKLAND'S STREETS FOR HIDDEN GOLD 



YoLeaveTheTribureOHice Saturdayat 

12:15 P. M. With Committee of 

Prominent Citizens 






Reward for Success 
» » * * • * 
l *l Never FafT^-Capltiwi 

C-t one man read another mans tmnd? 
Carbon, .he English magician, at the Oiphcum. say, he 
can do it. 

\ rXl Saturday he will try. 

■SKTfcA22£S 

TV n S-toeawn wiU hide a bag ol goM . waning $25v 
in a can of the city entirely unknown to CartKm. 

^4 g .c,an w,U have posi^ely no |»<«£g£rfj*~ 

the bag of B old is hidc.cn. He w.ll start rom 1 H » TRWUNE 

office wtuely ignorant of where the hto.ng place of the bag o. 

i -» be. , n 

. laims to be able to read minds, and .bus to be a ic 

., Eel which stranger, hide from tan. Next Sam.- 

Sy^ nocn'he »ffl make this mind reading attempt in the 

interest of science. 

Watch for his appearance along Broadway at »™» ** *° 
folded, in his search for THE TRIB-JNh-a bag 

3 he trios, the bag of gold will be his. 
If he • 

Bin Carlton says he never rails' 

Join the throng on Broadway on Saturday at noon ana see 
i! his claim is i-.iade good. 
- .•• the crowd. 

will leave THE TRIBUNE office at BOS p. m. 
Everybody is invi.ed to be present when he makes 







CARLTON, an English magician, « 
orb. *ti- aijtdioUe; sner-pi^: -^ 
SSSEung '5233 onerecT&y THE I « 
prize if he succeeds in his undertaking. 



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Announcemen/ o\ Betrothal oi Prominent 

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PORTION OF FROM PAGE OF THE "OAKLAND TRIBUNE *' WITH REPORT 
OF CARLTON'S TREASURE HINT IN THAT CITY 



BIGGEST NEWSPAPER SPOOF 207 

over again, and never once did I fail in my quest, 
nor was the secret of how it was done ever 
elucidated by anybody. 

I have performed the feat in Italian cities, and 
puzzled university professors, and before com- 
mittees of professional magicians in India, Egypt, 
and other Oriental and N car-Eastern countries, 
and these were deceived as completely as were the 
shrewd, hard-headed Yankees. 

Some of my hardest tests, however, have been 
undergone in England, in connection with certain 
of the big English newspapers. In several 
instances editors whom I have approached have 
been frankly incredulous in the beginning ; so 
much so, indeed, that they have at first refused to 
sanction a public test under their auspices. This 
was the case in connection with the Bath Chronicle, 
whereupon I offered to give a preliminary exhi- 
bition there and then in the office before the 
members of the staff. 

The offer was accepted. I was blindfolded with 
a thick, heavy muffler, folded in four, which was 
then tied tightly round my head, my eyes, more- 
over, being first covered with pads of cotton-wool. 
This done, one of the staff, at my suggestion, took 
up a piece of chalk and started to draw a line from 
near where I was standing to whatever part of the 
building he chose. He could, I agreed, carry the 
line where he pleased, up and down stairs, into 
the basement, offices, machine-rooms — anywhere 
he liked, in fact. This done, he was to hide some 
small article at some spot near the end of the line, 
and I would undertake to find it. More than this, 
I told him that, provided he walked behind me, 
concentrated all his thoughts on the matter in 
hand, and willed me so to do, I would follow 
exactly the chalk -line he had marked out, pacing 



208 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

along all its twists and turnings, until I had 
groped my way to the end and found the hidden 
article. 

This feat I successfully accomplished, wending 
my way in and out among machinery — purposely 
brought to a standstill for the occasion — upstairs 
and downstairs, under tables and over chairs. 
As a result everybody was greatly impressed, 
nobody had any reasonable explanation to offer, 
and the editor promptly agreed to a public trial, 
minus, of course, the chalk line. 

Accordingly he deputed a member of his staff 
to hide, " in some public place within two miles of 
the Chronicle office, some article or other." Strict 
injunctions were given that he was to let no one 
see him do it, and that he was not to tell a single 
person what he had hidden, or where he had 
hidden it. 

So impressed was the reporter with the import- 
ance of his mission, I found out afterwards, that 
he waited until after dark to fulfil it, and sallied 
forth from the office so stealthily, and followed so 
circuitous and lonely a route, as to convince him 
that no one could possibly have dogged his foot- 
steps, or had him under observation in any shape 
or form. 

The day following I underwent the test, and 
successfully located the article he had hidden. 
The report of the affair in the Bath Chronicle takes 
up about a column and a half, but as the main 
instances are similar to those narrated above I 
forbear to quote it in its entirety. I will, however, 
reproduce the concluding paragraphs, and I would 
like to direct the reader's particular attention to 
the words I have italicised, as I shall have some- 
thing important to say about this particular 
incident when I come to elucidate the mystery. 



BIGGEST NEWSPAPER SPOOF 209 

After relating various happenings in connection 
with the earlier stage of the journey, the crowd 
that lined the route, etc., the report proceeds as 
follows : 

Reaching the turning leading to the Midland Bridge, 
" Carlton " crossed the road for a few yards, and then 
went ahead towards the bridge. He marched on, only 
halting once or twice, as his outstretched hands fumbled 
the side of the bridge. Crossing and recrossing the road 
he went on, and the crowd was evincing the liveliest 
interest in the proceedings. Arriving at the end of the 
Midland Bridge Road, he turned sharply to the left, and 
after some manoeuvring turned down James Street. 

Here he walked into the wall on the left-hand side, his 
forehead coming into contact with the stonework. This 
accident loosened the bandage over " Carlton's " eyes, which 
was at once readjusted. This done, " Carlton " made for 
the direction of Green Park. He took the right-hand 
side of the thoroughfare, and for about twenty yards kept 
close to the railings fencing the Green Park enclosure. 
The explorer retraced his steps as far as the Park entrance 
gate, which seemed to excite his lively interest. His hand 
alighting on the handle, he opened the gate, entered the 
enclosure, and closely examined with his hands the 
stonework on which the gate is hung. He was observed 
by the crowd to stoop down, feel along the ground, and on 
rising up was seen to be holding a pale blue envelope. 
Recognising that the search had been successful, the 
crowd cheered heartily. On opening the envelope 
" Carlton," amid renewed cheers, displayed the bunch of 
keys which I had late last night hidden. He had com- 
pleted his task in an hour. 

As a rule the articles hidden by those who tested 
me were comparatively valueless, and anyhow 1 
was not supposed to keep possession of them after 
I had found them. But at Oakland, California, 
I was given a rather pleasant surprise. So cock- 
sure was the editor of the Tribune of that city that 



210 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

I could not do what I said I could do, under the 
conditions he proposed to impose upon me, that he 
offered to hide two hundred and fifty dollars, the 
money to be mine if I succeeded in finding it. 

Naturally, I was quite agreeable, and as the 
Tribune took good care to boom its " generous 
offer " beforehand, the crowds in the streets on 
the day the test was to be performed surpassed 
anything I had before experienced. The police 
estimated that there were between thirty and 
forty thousand people present. The date was 
September 9th, 191 1, and the dust and the heat 
were awful. 

The individual chosen by the Tribune editor to 
hide the money, and to " guide " me to it after- 
wards, was no less a personage than the Secretary 
of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce, one of the 
city's wealthiest and most prominent citizens, and 
a man whose integrity and bona fides were, of 
course, quite beyond question. By agreement 
with the Chief of Police, he had selected as a 
hiding-place for the bag of gold one of the police 
telephone call-boxes, such as are an institution in 
most American cities, and to which the police 
alone are able to obtain access by means of 
their private keys. 

The particular box he chose was fixed to an 
electric light standard in a remote quarter of the 
city, and just before I left the Tribune building 
the editor received a telephone message to 
the effect that the money was still in the box 
where it had been hidden overnight, and that the 
key had now been placed on top of the box, which 
was being guarded by a couple of officers detailed 
for the purpose. This information, however, was, I 
need hardly say, not imparted to me. In fact, I 
knew nothing whatever about the money, except 



BIGGEST NEWSPAPER SPOOF 211 

that ii was hidden somewhere in Oakland, and 

thai I had go1 to find it. 
How I succeeded is told in the following report, 

taken from a special evening edition of the 
Tribune, which was selling on the streets within a 
few minutes of my having accomplished my task : 

In the middle of a hollow square and surrounded by 
thirty thousand persons, shortly after noon to-day, at 
the south-ear t corner of Fourteenth and Broadway, 
"Arthur Carlton," the famed magician, who is nightly 
performing at the Orpheum in this city, blindfolded found 
a bag containing two hundred and fifty dollars in gold 
which had been hidden in a telephone-box at that inter- 
section for the purpose of determining whether or not he 
was able to read the thoughts of the man who had there 
cached the precious metal. 

The discovery was greeted with enthusiastic cheers by 
the thousands who pressed in on every side, and who were 
prevented from raising the magician upon their shoulders 
only by a cordon of police. 

The money was offered by the Tribune for the purpose 
of determining whether or not " Carlton " possessed the 
power of reading the minds of persons, which he claimed 
to be able to do. In the event of his finding the coin in 
the place selected for its secretion, the two hundred and 
fifty dollars was to become the property of the finder. 
There was a stipulation, however, that the money was to 
be cached by a man of standing in the community who 
should be selected by the management of the Tribune ; 
that the hiding-place was to be kept a secret by the 
representatives of this paper, who had been chosen for the 
purpose, and that the treasure-trove should be conducted 
in the light of day and in the presence of every resident of 
the city of Oakland who might desire to witness the 
quest. 

" Carlton ,JI agreed to every condition and complied 
with them in a manner which showed him to be not only 
capable of mastering the thoughts of others without 
physical contact with them, but at the same time to be a 






■ I 

■ 



212 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

consistent advocate of the science of telepathy, of which 
he is to-day the most famous exponent in existence. 

The achievement of this young Englishman has never 
been equalled in this city. This is the view of thousands 
of citizens who witnessed the accomplishment, and who 
still retain the heartiest appreciation of the work in the 
same line of Bishop, Tyndall, and other workers in the 
same field who made reputations in this country about 
twenty years ago. It has been created by the fact that 
"Carlton" has done something which rone of those 
distinguished advocates of thought-transference ever 
attempted. They were able to read the minds of others, 
but not without being in physical contact with those whose 
minds they were reading. The persons whose minds were 
being interpreted were required to hold the demonstrator 
by the wrist and concentrate their thoughts upon the sub- 
ject which was to be illustrated, or they were connected 
by wires with the operator and expected to centre their 
thoughts both upon the article hidden and the direction 
which had been followed in the secretion. 

The following morning the paper gave up its 
entire front page to recording my achievement, and 
then, and for several days afterwards, scores of 
letters appeared from people who imagined that 
they had hit upon the solution of the mystery. 

As a matter of fact, as I have before intimated, 
neither in Oakland, nor anywhere else where I have 
performed the feat, has anyone succeeded in 
finding out how it was done. 

Now for the explanation ! 



CHAPTER XV 

HOW THE BIG SPOOF WAS WORKED 

Muscle training on novel lines — How not to be blindfolded — 
Artificially developed frontal muscles — The advantage of 
possessing a prominent proboscis — Following one's nose — 
I study boots — A Sherlock Holmes of footwear — Acting 
blind — Not so easy as it sounds — Queer happenings at 
Halifax — A mishap at Leeds — Police stop the performance — 
A curious mischance at Bath — Ingenious explanations to 
account for the feat — Invisible wires — Guided by bugle calls 
— Following the scent. 

THE real root secret of the trick, or rather 
series of tricks, described in the previous 
chapter may be summed up in four 
words — muscular training and development. 

Not the ordinary muscular training of the 
gymnasiums, however, be it noted ; but muscular 
training developed along novel and unsuspected 
lines. 

I have always been fond of experimenting in 
these directions, with the result that I have, in the 
course of years, achieved what I think I may 
fairly describe as some rather startling results. 
I can, for example, as I have already explained 
elsewhere, increase or decrease my height at will 
by expanding or contracting the muscles of my 
legs, thighs, chest, and abdomen. I have taught 
myself also to move my ears backwards and 
forwards, a feat performed constantly and 
naturally by all the lower animals, but the practice 
of which, as regards man, has become dormant 
owing to long disuse. 

2n 



214 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

The particular set of muscles I used in my 
blindfold experiment were those in front of the 
forehead, and which ordinarily come into play 
whenever the eyes are shut or opened. These are 
quite unusually powerful in their action, as the 
reader can test for himself if he will take the 
trouble to close his eyes, cover them tightly with 
the palm of his left hand, and then suddenly open 
them wide to their fullest extent. He will find 
that the whole lower portion of the skin of the 
forehead is pushed up under his hand by the 
expansion of the frontal muscles, no matter how 
tightly he presses against it. 

Now it is, of course, well known that as a result 
of long or repeated use all muscles increase in size, 
and consequently in strength, through the forma- 
tion of new fibre. Taking advantage of this fact, 
I set to work to train and develop my frontal 
muscles, in much the same way as the professional 
boxer, say, trains and develops his biceps, or the 
runner his leg muscles. 

I spent an hour or more every day for many 
months on end practising shutting and opening 
my eyes, rolling them from side to side, moving 
the scalp up and down, and so on. The result was 
that I was able presently to so contract and 
expand the muscles of my forehead and to move 
the skin up and down in such a way that, no 
matter how closely my eyes were bound, I could 
relax the bandage or change its position up or 
down in relation to my sight, and this, of course, 
without touching it in any way with my hands. 

Nor was it possible for anyone to detect the 
change, for not only was it quite slight — although 
always sufficient for my purpose — but if anyone 
wanted to examine the bandage while the test was 
in progress, as indeed frequently happened, I had 



HOW THE BIG SPOOF WAS WORKED 215 

only to close my eyes, throw back my head, and 
at the same time relax my frontal muscles, when 
the bandage would at once fall into its proper 
position, and even the most critical examiner 
would be fain to confess that in his opinion the 
wearer of it — that is to say myself — could not 
possibly see anything whatever, either through it, 
over it, or under it. 

This much as regards the training preliminary 
to the trick ! The intelligent reader will no doubt 
be struck by the fact that in its inception it bears 
a certain sort of analogy to that first practised by 
the Davenports and their imitators. These people 
allowed themselves to be tightly bound about the 
body, arms, and legs with ropes, while their 
muscles were purposely kept by them in a state 
of extreme tension, and then when lights were 
lowered they were able to free themselves from 
their bonds by muscular contraction. Substitute 
" bandage " for " ropes," and it will be apparent 
that I worked my blindfold trick on similar lines. 

" But," exclaims the reader, " this does not 
explain how you found articles previously hidden 
in places unknown to you, and in localities miles 
away from your starting-point. Even if you were 
able to loosen your bandage at will in such a way 
as to permit of your peeping under it, that would 
not help you greatly in this respect, seeing that 
you had to find your way unaided, and according 
to your theory, unguided, through the maze of 
streets and thoroughfares of a strange city." 

Wait a minute — I am coming to that. But first 
let me say something about the preliminary test 
which I usually insisted on undergoing at the 
office of the particular newspaper I had selected to 
spoof. This, it will be remembered, consisted in 
my walking along a chalk line that had been drawn 



216 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

by a member of the staff from the centre of the 
floor in the editorial sanctum to some distant point 
on the premises. This line, which was, of course, 
started and completed after I had been — so the 
onlookers were convinced — securely blindfolded, 
was carried at my instigation all over the place in 
a series of zigzags and curves, in and out and 
across, up stairs and down, so that it not in- 
frequently resembled very closely the ground 
pattern of some new and abnormally intricate 
species of maze. 

The man who drew the chalk-line would then, 
as explained in the previous chapter, hide some 
small item near the end of the line, and then, 
following behind me at a distance of three or four 
paces, he would " will " me to go forward along the 
line, following all its twisting and turnings, until 
I had reached the end of it and retrieved the 
hidden article. My great aim and object in carry- 
ing out these tests was to impress upon this indi- 
vidual that it was he who was really doing the 
finding through me, that I was only the medium, 
so to speak, and that it was his will-power that 
set me in motion and directed me which way to go. 

In order to encourage this delusion I used to tell 
him beforehand to draw crosses here and there 
along the line, explaining that, if he succeeded in 
exercising sufficient will-power, I would stop at 
each cross to it. This invariably greatly impressed 
the beholders, and added considerably to their 
mystification. 

The reader will now be able to form a fairly 
clear idea of how this particular trick was worked, 
bearing in mind my previous explanation as 
regards the bandaging, and the contraction and 
expansion at will of the artificially developed 
frontal muscles. I forgot to say that in addition 



HOW THE BIG SPOOF WAS WORKED 217 

to the bandage, folded in many thicknesses, I 
used to insist, as an extra precaution, on my eyes 
being covered with pads of cotton-wool. This, 
however, made no difference. Nature has fortu- 
nately endowed me with a fairly prominent nose, 
and by expanding the bandage and pads, and 
shifting their position ever so slightly by muscular 
effort in the manner already described, I was 
easily able to see down each side of it. 

True, the range of vision so obtained was 
extremely limited. I could see no more than a few 
inches immediately in front of me. But the chalk- 
line was there. I had only to keep along it, stop 
at the various cross marks, and, when I came to the 
end of it, grope about for the hidden article until 
I found it — no very difficult task. In fact, it was 
no more than a cause of following my nose, 
literally as well as metaphorically. 

Of course, there was a good deal of play-acting 
about the performance. I had to grope and 
stumble about, for instance, exactly as a blind- 
folded man would ; and yet I had to be very 
careful not to overdo the part, for the great thing, 
of course, was to avoid rousing the slightest 
suspicion in the minds of the onlookers. As a 
matter of fact, I am quite convinced that none of 
them at any time harboured any such suspicions. 
The elaborately tight bandaging, the plugging of 
the eyes with pads of cotton-wool pressed well 
down into the sockets, was sufficient to convince 
the most sceptical. And, of course, they were 
quite right in assuming that I could not see at the 
time when they were examining me. It was 
afterwards, when the frontal muscular expansion 
came into play, and I made ready to start on my 
quest, that the element of sight came into opera- 
tion. 



218 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

This preliminary test, with the chalk line to 
guide me, was, however, a comparatively simple 
matter. It was far otherwise when it came to 
working the trick in the open streets, without any 
line, or in fact guidance of any sort, save that 
which was supposed to come from the man 
walking behind me, who, moreover, was forbidden 
to speak to me, and who, of course, was not in 
personal contact with me in any shape or form. 

During the months in which I was engaged in 
working the trick out in my own mind, and in 
experimenting privately as regards the best way 
of successfully concluding the task I had set 
myself, I found that the only moving objects that 
were at all likely to come within the extremely 
limited range of vision allowed me when " blind- 
folded " were — boots. 

Forthwith I became an enthusiastic and critical 
student of boots of all kinds. Not new boots as 
exhibited in the shop windows, be it understood ; 
but worn boots — boots on people's feet. I 
practised my powers of observation on men I met, 
training my memory in this one direction until I 
was able mentally to visualize, so to speak, any 
pair of boots I had once seen. I could see in my 
mind's eye every crease, each tiny protuberance. 
Sherlock Holmes himself would simply not have 
been in it with me in this particular branch of 
detective science. I learnt to recognise and know 
men by their boots, and by their boots alone. It 
was a most fascinating study, once I had warmed 
to my subject, and fraught with infinite possi- 
bilities. Some day I shall publish a monograph on 
" The Influence of Character on Footwear." 

Exactly how this laboriously acquired know- 
ledge helped me in my quest for hidden treasure 
the reader shall now learn, and I will take as an 



HOW THE BIG SPOOF WAS WORKED 219 

illustration the test imposed upon me at Oakland, 
California, where two hundred and fifty dollars in 
gold was actually hidden. The reader will please 
imagine me at the office of the Tribune news- 
paper of that city. Outside in the street is an 
immense throng of curious people, for the affair 
has been well boomed beforehand. I am intro- 
duced to the person who is to " guide " me, and 
who alone of all those present knows where the 
treasure is hidden — in this case, Mr. A. A. Denison, 
of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce. 

Prior to being blindfolded by the committee of 
prominent citizens appointed for the purpose, I 
am introduced to this gentleman, and we shake 
hands. Meanwhile I take stock of his boots, while 
addressing him in some such terms as these : 

You will please understand, Mr. Denison, that 
my failure or success to-day in the task I have 
undertaken rests with you, and you alone. You 
are the active agent ; I am merely the passive one. 
In effect it is you who are going to find this 
treasure, not I. You must exert all the strength 
of your will power to guide me aright. If you do 
this, I cannot possibly fail ; if you fail to do it, I 
cannot succeed. Walk behind me, and will me 
along the right path. If I am going in the right 
direction, mentally boost me ahead. If I am going 
wrong, stop yourself and mentally tell me to stop 
also. This is all I ask — that you shall not will me 
along the wrong road." 

All this, of course, is the biggest bunkum 
imaginable. But it impresses my auditors. And 
especially it impresses Mr. Denison. Meanwhile, 
I am still studying his boots. 

Well, I am bandaged to the satisfaction of the 
committee, who one and all examine me in turn, 
while some make suggestions, calculated, so they 



220 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

imagine, to further the completeness of the blind- 
folding business ; a little more cotton-wool here, 
a tightening of the bandage there, and so on. 
When all is finished a prominent member of the 
committee of investigation solemnly and em- 
phatically pronounces his opinion as follows : 
" Gentlemen, if Carlton can see through that 
bandage and those pads, he must have the eyes 
of a catamount/' 

Precisely what kind of an animal a catamount 
is, I do not know, but I am quite prepared to 
believe that it possesses abnormally keen eye- 
sight. Anyway, everybody appears quite satisfied, 
and I step forth from the building, groping and 
stumbling as a blind man would. The bugles 
blare, the crowd gives a mighty cheer, and the 
quest begins. I circle round like a hound casting 
for scent, only that my movements, of course, are 
slower. I know that in the beginning I must 
either go one way or the other ; up the street or 
down, to the right or to the left. 

Groping this way and that, with my hands out- 
stretched, but my eyes carefully directed down- 
wards, I am able presently to bring the boots of 
my " guide " within my very limited range of 
vision. Naturally the toes are pointing in the 
direction he is mentally willing me to go. So off 
I start in that direction, after a little more groping 
and circling, done for effect, and not of any set 
purpose. 

Now, I have previously taken care to make 
myself thoroughly acquainted with the topo- 
graphy of the city generally, and more especially 
with that of the streets in the immediate vicinity 
of the newspaper office from which I set out. Also 
I am aware that the bag of gold is secreted some- 
where at a point approximately not less than a 



HOW THE BIG SPOOF WAS WORKED 221 

mile, and not more than two miles, from the 
starting-point, for this was the arrangement made 
in advance. So the reader will see that I had a 
certain amount of data to go upon. 

There is, of course, always the kerb to guide me, 
and in the main thoroughfares there are tram- 
lines. I could, therefore, walk in a perfectly 
straight line as far as the first turning. But this, 
naturally, I do not do. Instead, I zigzag from one 
side to the other, blunder into pedestrians, finger 
my way along shop-fronts and area-railings, and 
so on. 

By and by I come to a side street. I may have to 
turn down it, or I may not. In order to find out, I 
have to grope and circle in such a way as to be 
able to bring within my view the boots of the 
' guide " who is following me. A single glimpse 
suffices. But often I pretend to be at fault. 

: You are not exerting sufficient will power/' I 
tell him. " Please, sir, do your utmost to guide 
me aright. Will me along the way I am to go, 
please. I cannot go right without your help." 
And so on and so forth ! It is all the veriest 
humbug, of course ; but I have yet to come 
across the man whom it does not impress. 

In this manner I progress along the route, and 
at each turning or doubtful corner the pantomime 
set forth above is repeated. But never in quite 
the same way, or some among the onlookers might 
get suspicious, and this is the one thing I have to 
avoid at all hazards. Everything has to be done 
naturally ; every movement must be executed 
exactly as a blind man might be expected to 
execute it. It is not an easy matter. One has to 
be a good actor. Supposing, for example, I came 
upon an open grating, or a hole in the road. It 
would never do to avoid these too markedly. In 



222 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

the case of the grating I " feel " it with one foot, 
pretending to try and gauge its depth and extent, 
before circling round it. As regards the hole, if 
it is not too deep, I may allow myself the luxury 
of falling into it. It must, of course, be done care- 
fully, and there is even then a certain element of 
risk, but it adds immensely to the realism of the 
performance. 

In this way, circling, groping, stumbling, but 
every minute drawing nearer and nearer to my 
objective, I progress along my way, and in time I 
am able to locate the hiding-place of the object 
I am in search of. Never once have I failed. 

There have been some curious mischances, 
though. One of the queerest of these unrehearsed 
incidents occurred at Halifax, in connection with 
a test organised at my instigation by the editor 
and staff of the Guardian. The object I was in 
search of had been hidden under a bridge, over 
which the road I had to traverse was carried. On 
reaching the crown of the bridge, I knew, owing to 
my boot-reading tactics, that the hiding-place was 
somewhere beneath it ; so I pretended to climb 
over the parapet, knowing, of course, that I 
should be prevented from doing so, for this would 
have meant a sheer drop of twenty feet or so. 

On being pulled back, and warned of the danger 
I was supposed to be unconsciously running, I 
went round another way, and under the bridge. 
Here I located in my usual manner the exact spot 
where the object was supposed to be hidden, but, 
greatly to my chagrin and disappointment, I 
could not find it. For fully twenty minutes I 
fumbled round unavailingly. Then the man who 
was " guiding " me approached, and after himself 
fumbling about for awhile, he exclaimed : " Mr. 
Carlton, I am awfully sorry, but it's gone." 




CROWD IN" BRADFORD WATCHING CARLTON S SEARCH FOR TIIF. HIDDEN 

" TELEGRAPH ' ; BADGE 




CROWD AT OAKLAND (CALIFORNIA) WATCHING CARLTON'S SEARCH FOR 

HIDDEN TREASURE 



HOW THE BIG SPOOF WAS WORKED 223 

This proved to be the fact. Somebody had 
discovered the object, and removed it for safe 
keeping, and ii was returned to the Guardian 
office the nexl day. On iliis occasion I may be 

said in a sense to have failed, in that I did not find 
the article. But as the reason I did not find it 
was because it wasn't there, my reputation natur- 
ally did not suffer on that account. In fact it was 
rather enhanced, for everybody recognised that I 
had correctly located the place where by rights it 
ought to have been. 

Another time, at Leeds, the crowd was so great 
that the whole tramcar service of the city was 
threatened with disorganisation, and the police 
stepped in and stopped the performance. This 
was one of my most trying experiences, for the 
crowd was a somewhat rough one, and some of the 
people were in a rather ugly mood, believing the 
whole affair to have been a put-up job. However, 
I made them a speech, and soon got them in good 
humour. 

One of my roughest experiences was at Brad- 
ford, where the object of my quest was a silver 
medallion, or badge, the property of the chairman 
of the Bradford Cinderella Club. The crowds were 
immense, and to add to my difficulties the medal- 
lion had been " hidden " by being actually buried 
in the ground on a waste plot of land now occupied 
by the Alhambra Theatre there. However, after 
groping among the loose rubble and debris for a 
while I found it all right. " Then " — to quote the 
local report — " a cheer went up from several 
thousand throats as Carlton stood aloft with the 
silver badge in his hand. For our part we have to 
congratulate Carlton upon the feat, which we can 
testify was performed in a genuine manner and 
without any possible chance of collusion/ ' 



224 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

At Bath there happened a curious incident, 
referred to in the account of the affair published in 
the Bath Chronicle. The bandage became loose, 
and slipped down in such a manner as made it 
impossible for me to see under it ; nor was I able, 
try as I would, to get it back in its proper position 
by working my frontal muscles in the ordinary 
way. In this dilemma I was compelled to resort 
to a pretty little piece of play-acting. I pretended 
to blunder into a wall, bumping my head some- 
what severely, and incidentally loosening the 
bandage — of course, on purpose — so that it slipped 
completely down. This necessitated my being 
rebandaged, and this time, you may be sure, I took 
good care to have it tight enough. 

In conclusion I should like to emphasise the 
fact that no one, so far as I know, had any inkling 
at any time of the manner in which I succeeded in 
accomplishing what, on the face of it and until the 
mystery is explained, strikes the vast majority 
of people as being a wholly inexplicable feat. 
Literally thousands of letters have appeared in the 
Press professing to elucidate the way in which I 
worked it, but in no single instance were the 
writers anywhere near the correct solution. 

Nevertheless, some of the suggestions put 
forward were exceedingly ingenious, and such as 
I should certainly never have thought of on my 
own account. At Oakland, for instance, where 
buglers were employed (without consulting me) to 
advertise the show, quite a number of people 
advanced the theory that I was guided to the left 
or right, forward or backward, as the case might 
be, by the notes they emitted from time to time 
in the course of my progress through the streets. 

Another theory that found favour with quite 
a number of people in various parts of the world 



HOW THE BIG SPOOF WAS WORKED 225 

was that I was connected with my " guide M by 
means of M invisible " wires ; although how wires 
were to be made invisible nobody took the trouble 
to explain. 

After one of my performances in Egypt — 
where, by the way, I nearly got knifed through 
pretending to blunder into and embrace an Arab 
woman in the course of my " blindfold " 
peregrinations — a grave and dignified old Sheikh 
explained to the public, with much volubility, 
that the feat was really a quite childishly simple 
one. Walking in front of me, he opined, was 
a confederate strongly scented with a special 
perfume, and I simply " followed the scent," much 
as if I were some species of two-legged hound. 



CHAPTER XVI 

TELEPATHIC AND MESMERIC SPOOFS 

Real spiritualism and sham mesmerism — Spoof seances — I ring 
one off on my landlady — The self-playing piano — The 
spirit that walked upside-down — Some simple explanations 
— Manufacturing a telepathist to order — Thought-reading 
extraordinary — The colour test — Telepathy by wire — A brief 
dream of wealth — A sleepy wife and a hidden match-box — 
The dead-head who was spoofed — A disconcerting reception 
— Story of Houdini, the " Handcuff King " — More telepathy 
— Over the telephone this time — A puzzling link — And the 
explanation. 

ONE of the most famous conjurors who 
ever lived publicly expressed his dis- 
belief in spiritualism. He held the view 
that it is all a fake, got up by clever swindlers in 
order to bamboozle credulous fools. 

With all due respect to the late Mr. Maskelyne's 
undoubtedly sincere views I disagree with them. 
That there is a lot of spoof spiritualism knocking 
about nobody can deny. In fact I will go further 
and assert that in the vast majority of instances 
the ordinary seance, for which one pays one's 
guinea or two for the privilege of being present, is 
neither more nor less than a fake and a swindle of 
the most pronounced kind. 

But, admitting all this, the fact remains that 
there are phenomena in connection with spiritual- 
ism that cannot be explained away by any known 
rule of logic or reasoning. At least, such is my 
opinion. Why, I have heard a little Cockney 
wench of sixteen, who to my certain knowledge 
has never been any nearer to South Africa than 

226 



TELEPATHIC AND MESMERIC SPOOFS 227 

the Battersea Park Road, hold forth in pure Zulu 
dialect while in a state of trance at a private 
seance in a house near Clapham Junction. And 
when she came to, she didn't know a word of what 
she had been saying. She spoke Zulu with the 
proper native accent, too, and not as an ordinary 
Englishman or Englishwoman does when trying 
to imitate their guttural clicks and clucks. I know. 
I've been there. 

All the same, I would not advise any of my 
readers to " go in " for spiritualism. That way 
madness lies. I once tried it myself, but had to 
give it up. Better stick to the things of this world, 
and leave those pertaining to the spirit world 
severely alone. 

Telepathy stands on an altogether different 
footing. I don't believe in it one little bit. As I 
have already had occasion to remark, so-called 
thought-reading is merely trickery, clever trickery, 
no doubt, but none the less trickery. To the 
ordinary man the feats performed by the Zancigs 
and others seem absolutely inexplicable. But 
then so, too, do some of my card tricks. 

Reverting to the subject of spiritualism ! I once 
engineered a spoof seance all on my own. Not in 
order to make money ; but just for a lark. 

I was performing at Hastings, and as it happened 
the landlady of the house where I was staying was 
a firm believer. Of course, I was not long in 
finding this out ; whereupon I pretended that I 
also was one of the elect, and just before the 
termination of my engagement there I suggested 
that she should invite a few friends to a private 
seance. To this she assented, and at my sug- 
gestion it was held in my sitting-room, where was 
the usual collection of plants in pots, gimcrack 
pictures, and worthless ornaments, together with 



228 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

an ancient and asthmatic piano such as is to be 
found in most " pro.V " lodging-houses. 

That evening after my performance at the 
theatre, and shortly before the witching hour of 
midnight, the seance began. The landlady asked 
us all to attune our minds to receive humbly and 
without scepticism the spirit manifestations which 
she hoped and trusted were about to be vouchsafed 
to us. The lights were turned down, and a young 
lady with a greenery-yallery complexion and 
straight black hair sang very soft and low " Lead, 
kindly Light," with mandoline accompaniment. 

When she had finished, the landlady invited us 
to sit round the table and place our hands upon it. 
This we did. Pretty soon the table began to 
wobble about and rotate. 

" Wonderful ! " ejaculated everybody in a series 
of hoarse whispers. 

" Not at all," I replied. Then, in low solemn 
tones, I called upon the spirit present to manifest 
itself in regard to an aspidistra plant that stood 
in the far corner of the room. 

No sooner were the words out of my mouth than 
the leaves of the plant were violently agitated, 
the rustling noise being plainly audible to every- 
body. 

" Wonderful ! " cried everybody once more. 
" The spirits are indeed with us to-night." 

" They are indeed," I replied, " and we'll make 
the most of 'em." 

Then in lower tones : " Spirit, if it be thy will, 
let us have a manifestation in regard to that vase 
on the mantelshelf." 

Instantly, and without more ado, the vase 
jumped up of its own accord and came crashing 
to the floor. 

At this something like consternation reigned. 



TELEPATHIC AND MESMERIC SPOOFS 229 

By the dim light of the single turned-down gas- 
jet I could see that the eyes of my neighbours on 
the right and left were fixed on me in awe, and 
I could feel their hands tremble as they sought 
mine on the table. 

" The piano ! " I cried in a stage whisper, pre- 
tending to get wildly excited, and jumping to my 
feet. " The piano ! I'm going to ask the spirits 
to take it out at the window, and bring it in at the 
door." 

But this was too much for even my landlady. 
" Mr. Carlton," she exclaimed, " please don't 
joke. The spirits are all about us. Never before 
have I seen such manifestations." 

" All right ! " I replied, " If you think they'd 
be offended at my asking them to move the piano, 
why I won't ask them. But I'll tell you what we 
will do. We'll ask 'em to give us a tune on it." 

" No ! No ! " objected the landlady. " Im- 
possible ! Such a thing is unheard of. The 
spirits can't do it." 

" Well, let's try anyway," I said. " Come 
along ! " And suiting the action to the word I got 
up and went over to the piano, which I locked, and 
put the key in my pocket. 

Then we all put our hands on the closed cover 
of the instrument and waited. For a while nothing 
happened. Then suddenly from one of the lower 
notes there came a deep resonant " boom," 
followed by another, and another. 

There could be no mistaking whence the sound 
came. Somebody was playing on the closed and 
locked piano. 

At that moment there was a loud shriek, followed 
by a heavy thud on the floor. One of the women, 
completely overwrought, had screamed and 
fainted. That was the end of the seance. Some- 



230 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

body turned up the lights. The girl who had 
swooned — she was the same who had played the 
mandoline — was brought to with water and 
smelling-salts, and the awe-stricken guests took 
their departure. 

Now for the explanation. Before summoning 
the landlady and her friends to the seance, I had 
gone to the trouble of fixing threads leading from 
where I was sitting to the aspidistra plant and 
the vase, and I had also affixed similar threads, 
half a dozen of them, to the hammers of the notes 
of the piano underneath the keyboard, allowing 
them to dangle down in such a way that I could 
easily reach them by stretching out my hand. 

Simple, isn't it ! Yet it spoofed completely 
everybody there that night ; and to this day, I 
suppose, they believe that they witnessed some 
very wonderful and perfectly genuine spirit mani- 
festations. 

The following morning early I made up my face 
delicately with hollow eyes, and wan cheeks, so 
as to suggest a sleepless night, and when the 
landlady came in with my morning cup of tea I 
remarked in awestricken tones that I believed 
her house was haunted by the spirits. " Why/' 
I said, " they've been walking about in the night 
upside-down on the ceiling above my head." 

Instinctively the good lady turned her eyes up 
to the ceiling. Then she let out a yell, dropped the 
tray she was holding with a crash, and fell gasping 
and shaking into a near-by arm-chair. 

And small wonder ! For there on the white 
plaster of the ceiling, plainly visible, were the 
marks of naked feet, circling the room and leading 
out at the door. 

And now for another simple explanation. The 
next bedroom was occupied by a friend of mine, 



TELEPATHIC AND MESMERIC SPOOFS 231 

an acrobat. After the household had gone to bed 
on the previous night, he had stolen into my room, 
slightly blackened the solos of his bare feet with 
soot from the chimney, and then, balancing 
himself upside-down with his hands on my 
shoulders, he had made the prints on the ceiling 
which so puzzled and alarmed the landlady. 

So simple ! And yet she never guessed. 

I once persuaded a fat chap who used to work 
for my show that he was a telepathist. The 
beginning of it was this way. I used to perform 
feats of the so-called thought-reading variety that 
were as genuine as such feats ever are. The fat 
chap used to try to imitate them. There was, for 
instance, the trick of walking blindfold into a 
room, and finding an article that had previously 
been hidden. 

One day when there were a lot of us together in 
my dressing-room at the Hippodrome, Sheffield, I 
turned the conversation on to my assistant's 
wonderful telepathic gifts, flattering him to the 
top of his bent. Previously, I had put the others 
up to it, and they one and all clamoured for an 
exhibition of his powers. 

Fatty was nothing loth, and at my instigation 
he was taken from the room and blindfolded. An 
article was supposed to have been previously 
hidden somewhere within the room by one of the 
crowd, and I was deputed to walk behind him 
and " will " him the way he was to go in order to 
find it. 

" You must," I told him, " stand perfectly 
upright with your heels and toes close together, 
and presently you will feel my will power urging 
you forward in the direction you ought to go. 
Don't resist the influence. Let yourself go. And 
you will find that, if my will power is sufficiently 



232 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

strong, it will lead you to where the hidden 
article is." 

Now it is a fact, as the reader can easily prove 
for himself, that if a man stands upright, blind- 
folded, or even with his eyes tightly shut, and with 
his heels and toes close together, his body will 
automatically sway forward ; and this is precisely 
what happened to Fatty. 

" I can feel the influence pushing me on," he 
exclaimed excitedly, and started groping about 
the room. In a minute or two one of the men 
present quietly placed a cigarette-case on the 
table in front of his outstretched hand, and of 
course he grabbed it. 

" Wonderful ! " they shouted. " He's found it" 

Fatty pulled the bandage from his eyes, and 
stood triumphant, his big, round, simple face 
beaming with pleasure and pride. 

" I didn't think I could do it," he cried. " I 
didn't think it was in me. I'm a marvel." 

But I pretended to be in doubt. 

" Some of you chaps are having a lark with 
us," I said. 

" No ! No, we're not. It's all fair and above- 
board ; isn't it, Fatty ? " they cried. 

And Fatty, of course, assured me on his word 
of honour as a man and a gentleman that he did 
not even know what was the article he had to find. 
Which was quite true. And neither did we in the 
beginning. 

" Well," I replied, as if still unconvinced, "I'll 
mark a penny myself, and we'll see if you can 
find that." 

Again Fatty was led from the room, blindfolded, 
and the same rigmarole gone through, the penny 
being slipped right under his hand as he groped 
along the mantelpiece. 



TELEPATHIC AND MESMERIC SPOOFS 233 

11 My God ! " he cried excitedly. " I'm a 
marvel. I've found it/ 1 

I pretended to be surprised, but still somewhat 
incredulous. 

II Look here/' I said, picking up a piece of paper 
and an envelope from my dressing-table, " we will 
have one more test. I am going to write the name 
of a colour on this sheet of paper, seal it up in the 
envelope, and place it inside my coat-pocket. Then 
you must leave your mind a blank, and I will try 
and will you to tell me the colour I have written 
down." 

This test also succeeded. He named a colour, 
and it proved to be the one written on the paper 
inside the envelope I took from my pocket. As a 
matter of fact I had a dozen or so envelopes in 
rotation in my pocket, each with a different 
colour-name inside, so that was impossible that 
the test should have failed. But this, of course, 
Fatty did not know. 

I made out to be really and truly surprised now. 
So did all the others. Nevertheless, I suggested 
one more final test, a drastic one that would place 
the matter beyond doubt for evermore ; or, at 
least, so I told him. 

I knew that he had a brother who was manager 
of a well-known London music-hall, so when I 
asked him suddenly if he knew well anybody in 
Town whom he could send a wire with the proba- 
bility of being able to get an immediate reply, I 
was not at all surprised when he answered : 

" Yes. There's my brother, who manages the 
Holborn Empire." 

" Right ! " I exclaimed. " He'll do." And 
taking a pack of cards from my pocket, I spread 
them out face downward on the table. 

u Now," I said, " I want you to select one card 



234 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

at haphazard from this pack, and when you have 
examined it you are to send a reply-paid telegram 
to 5 T our brother asking him what card you are 
thinking of. You must concentrate your thoughts 
on your brother, and try and tell him mentally 
which is the card you hold in your hand. Mean- 
while, in order to avoid any chance of collusion, 
no one is to leave the dressing-room until the 
answer comes back." 

" I'll try," said Fatty haltingly, as if doubtful 
of the result. " I'll try my best." 

He took up a card. It was the ace of spades. 
Then he wrote out a telegram as follows : " Dear 
brother. What card am I thinking of ? Please 
wire immediately." 

The telegram was given to a messenger to send 
off. Then we lit cigars, poured out whiskies-and- 
sodas, and sat down to wait — and chat. Fatty 
sat by himself in a corner, his head between his 
hands, intent on conveying a telepathic message 
to his brother two hundred miles away in London. 

Presently the messenger entered with the reply 
wire. Fatty seized it, tore it open. 

" My God ! " he cried, reading it aloud. " It 
says ' the ace of spades.' Now, gentlemen, will you 
believe in me ? " 

" We will," we said solemnly. " That settles 
it." 

For the benefit of the reader I may explain that 
the pack of cards I took from my pocket and spread 
out face downwards on the table was a trick pack, 
of the kind used by conjurors. Every one of the 
fifty-two cards comprising it was an ace of spades. 

Also Fatty's brother in London, who was of 
course well known to me, had previously been 
instructed by me to reply " ace of spades " in case 
he received a wire from anybody inquiring, 



TELEPATHIC AND MESMERIC SPOOFS 235 

"What card am I thinking of?" In fact I have 
quite a number of people all over England who 
have received similar instructions, for I frequently 
work this particular wheeze, but in a slightly 
different form, at conjuring entertainments at 
private houses. 

I lost sight of Fatty soon after the occurrence 
narrated above, but I have been given to under- 
stand that he believes to this day that he became 
for a brief while, and under my influence, a 
genuine, first-class telepathist. Nor did the fact 
that all his further experiments in the same 
direction resulted in complete failure shake his 
confidence in the least. He attributed it to the 
fact that the people he selected to influence him 
did not possess a sufficiency of will power. 

Another man who used to work for me, and 
whom we christened Talking Tommy, holds a 
similar opinion. We worked the spoof on him, too, 
and he went home, after having a few drinks at 
about three o'clock in the morning, and tried the 
experiment on his wife, who was in bed and 
asleep. 

Waking her up, he said : " Get out of bed, dear ; 
I'ma telepathist. I want you to hide this match- 
box downstairs somewhere. Then 111 blindfold 
myself, and you shall will me to find it." 

" But I don't want to will ; I want to go to 
sleep," expostulated the poor lady. 

" Just this once, darling," pleaded Tommy. 
" There's a fortune awaiting us if we succeed. 
I can see us working it on the Halls together at 
one hundred pounds a week. It all depends on 
whether or no you possess sufficient will power. 
Hide the box, then concentrate your whole 
attention on guiding me mentally to the place 
where you have hidden it." 



236 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

Thus adjured, the sleepy lady arose, and for the 
next half -hour she was wandering round the house 
in her bare feet, upstairs and downstairs, trying 
to will her blindfold husband to where the match- 
box was. Of course she failed. Tommy fell over 
the coal-box, knocked two of his choice vases off 
the mantelpiece, but found no match-box. Then, 
in the end, he got wild, and told her it was all her 
fault, she hadn't got as much will power as a she 
tabby cat. 

Tommy was one of the most simple-minded 
men I ever came across. He had a lawn at home. 
It was almost as big as an ordinary billiard table, 
but Tommy was awfully proud of it. One year, 
however, the grass grew patchy. Tommy was quite 
upset about it, and used to bewail his ill luck to all 
and sundry. 

" Oh," said one of the dressers, " if that's all, 
I can easily put things right for you " ; and he 
went and mixed some permanganate of potash in 
a bottle, and told Tommy to take it home, dilute it 
with plenty of water, and sprinkle his lawn with 
the mixture at night before going to bed. " It's 
the most wonderful fertiliser ever known," con- 
cluded this champion liar, " and in the morning 
you'll find your lawn a lovely velvety green all 
over." 

Tommy did as he was bid. But the lawn wasn't 
green in the morning. It was a dull brick-red 
colour, and looked as if it had been devastated by 
a first-class prairie fire. 

Another time Tommy came to me while I was 
showing at the Oxford, and asked me to pass two 
or three of his friends in. At first I was rather 
taken aback, for, of course, it is entirely against 
the etiquette of the profession for a performer to 
ask for free admission for even his most intimate 



TELEPATHIC AND MESMERIC SPOOFS 237 

Friends or relations. And rightly so ! We get paid 
our salaries, and we have no earthly right to try 
to sponge on managers for seats. 

Tommy, however, I could see, had no idea of all 
this. To him his request appeared in the light of 
a quite natural one. And this gave me an idea. 

I told him to get some cards printed with his 
name and address, and underneath the words : 
' Super and Comedian to ' Carlton ! ' 

" These cards," I said quite solemnly, " will 
pass you and your friends into the best seats in any 
Hall in London. All you will have to do is to ask 
for the manager and hand him one, stating how 
many seats you require/ ' 

Tommy thought this an excellent idea, and went 
off there and then and got his cards printed. 

" Where shall I go first ? " he asked me later on 
in the day. 

" Doesn't matter ! " I replied off-handedly. 
11 Why not try the Oxford ? Come to-morrow 
night, and bring half a dozen pals with you." 

" Right," replied Tommy, beaming with 
pleasurable anticipation, " I will." 

And he did. 

Meanwhile I had seen Mr. Blythe Pratt, the 
Manager, and told him about the joke ; with the 
result that when Tommy appeared, with six 
rather nondescript-looking friends, he was received 
with every courtesy, and given a private box for 
the evening. 

Of course he was delighted. Vistas of unlimited 
free entertainments loomed before his excited 
imagination. 

" Where shall I go to-morrow night ? " he asked. 

"Oh," I said. "Why not try the T ," 

mentioning a Hall where there was, I knew, an 
unusually grumpy and quick-tempered manager. 



238 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

He went. What exactly transpired there I 
never heard. But I can imagine the scene. 

Tommy was quite upset about it. 

" Oh/' there must have been some mistake, I 
told him. " Try the Palace to-night/ ' 

And he actually did try it. But that finished it. 
The reception he met with there finally cured him 
of all further desire in the direction of cadging for 
free seats. 

By the way, here is a funny story that occurs to 
me as I write. 

Although it is not generally known to the public, 
it is, nevertheless, a fact that Houdini, the world- 
famous " Handcuff King," and Hardeen, his rival 
in the business, are brothers. 

They are, however, on the best of terms with one 
another personally, being rivals only professionally. 
Once it happened that Houdini had a week's 
engagement at Leeds at the same time that 
Hardeen was appearing at Bradford. 

Houdini arrived in the former town very late at 
night, and desiring to see his brother on an urgent 
matter of business he went over to Bradford, 
arriving there about two o'clock in the morning, 
when, of course, everybody had gone to bed. 

However, Houdini made the best of his way to 
where his brother lodged, and after he had been 
knocking and hammering at the door for about 
twenty minutes, " loud enough," as he expressed 
it, " to wake the dead," the landlord put his head 
out of the window. 

" Who are you ? What do you want ? " he 
asked rather irately. 

"I'm Houdini, the handcuff king, and I want 
to see my brother, Mr. Hardeen, on important 
business," was the reply. " Come down and open 
the door." 



TELEPATHIC AND MESMERIC SPOOFS 239 

The landlord grunted. Then — " Oh, you're 
Houdini, arc you ? That there chap as can open 
any lock ? " 

" Yes ! Yes ! That's me!" cried the Hand- 
cuff King impatiently. 

"Well then," quoth the landlord, "if that be 
so, why don't 'ee open t' lock o' front door, an' 
walk right in ? What dost want to knock me up 
for ? I'm going back to bed." 

And go back to bed he did, leaving poor Houdini 
cooling his heels on the doorstep, until such time 
as he chose to take his departure and return to 
Leeds. 

Here is a little telepathic spoof that anyone can 
accomplish who has a telephone in their house, 
or if not they can make use of the telegraph 
service. 

Say you have a friend, or friends, dining with 
you. You lead the conversation round gradually 
to the subject of telepathy, mentioning incidentally 
that you yourself possess certain gifts in that 
direction. 

Probably your statement will be received with 
polite incredulity ; whereupon, pretending to get 
huffed, you take a pack of cards, spread them out 
on the table face uppermost, and invite any one 
of your guests to select any card he pleases. 

He picks out, we will say, the three of hearts. 
Then you say to him : " Now I have a friend 
living at Hampstead (or wherever the place may 
be) who is telepathically en rapport with me. If 
you will keep perfectly still for a minute or so, I 
will try and place myself in communication with 
him, and let him know by means of telepathy 
which card you have chosen." 

You then bury your head in your arms on the 
table, pretending to be thinking deeply for a short 



240 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

while ; then presently you look up with an air of 
relief, heave a deep sigh of satisfaction, ejaculate 
" Sakabona ! I've got him ! " or some similar 
phrase, and tell your friend to go to your telephone, 
and ring up a certain number, which you give him. 

You then tell him to ask for " Charlie/' which, 
you explain, is your friend's name, and say to him, 
" What card have I chosen ? " 

Wonderingly, and not a little sceptical, your 
friend does as he is bid. But his scepticism 
vanishes when the correct answer comes back over 
the 'phone. 

" What card have I chosen ? " he asks. And 
almost instantly the answer comes back : " The 
three of hearts." 

Now for the explanation of this very puzzling 
trick ; puzzling, that is to say, to the uninitiated. 

Like most other tricks of the kind, it is very 
simple, once you know how it is done. 

There is, of course, no telepathy about it. The 
real fact of the matter is that the " spoof ' is 
worked by means of a code previously arranged 
between yourself and your friend at the other end 
of the wire. On the wall near his telephone-box is 
a card made out as follows : — 



HEARTS 


DIAMONDS 


CLUBS 


SPADES 


I. Jim 


Ronald 


Philip 


Ted 


2. Bill 


Archie 


Claude 


Adam 


3. Charlie 


Reggie 


Ernest 


Matthew 


4. Jack 


Gus 


Fred 


Doc 


5. Harry 


Victor 


Geoffrey 


David 


6. Brown 


Robin 


Jesse 


Andrew 


7. Smith 


Norman 


Jacob 


Isaac 


8. Robinson 


Gerald 


Joe 


Sam 


9. Eric 


Frank 


Bert 


Mike 


10. Tom 


Arthur 


John 


Mac 


Jack George 


Oliver 


Hal 


Eli 


Queen Stevens 


Harold 


Ben 


Leonard 


King Bert 


Stanley 


Dick 


Hubert 



TELEPATHIC AND MESMERIC SPOOFS 241 

Glancing at this immediately on receipt of the 
message, he sees that " Charlie," the name he 
is addressed by, stands for the three of hearts, 
and he 'phones back accordingly. Had your 
friend chosen the ten of spades, you would have 
instructed him to ask for " Mac," and so on 
throughout the whole pack of fifty-two cards. 



R 



CHAPTER XVII 

SHARPS AND FLATS 

Spoofing a mesmerist — The spoofer spoofed — Spoof card tricks — 
Racecourse sharps — The " dud " diamond wheeze — I am 
beautifully " had "■ — Three-card trick sharps — A Newcastle 
adventure — Bunny's spoof — Spoofing a " new chum " — The 
performing elephant and the dude — Wheezes and gags. 

I WAS once supposed to have been mesmer- 
ised myself. It happened at Newcastle. 
I was a guest at an hotel there where a 
professional mesmerist also chanced to be staying. 

One day, in the course of conversation, I 
expressed incredulity regarding his alleged power. 
" You can't mesmerise me," I said. 

" Well," he retorted, " I don't mind trying. 
But you must promise not to try and resist me. 
You must remain passive." 

" All right," I said, " I will. Go ahead with the 
show." 

He made several passes, during which I kept 
smiling at him, and shaking my head, as much as 
to say it was no good. 

Then all of a sudden I threw myself into a state 
of rigidity, a trick I had learnt and practised years 
previously, and pretended to go off into a cata- 
leptic trance. 

The mesmerist was hugely elated. The others 
present, most of whom knew me, were con- 
siderably surprised. Not one of them but believed 
that he was witnessing a genuine hypnotic 
phenomenon. 

242 



SHARPS AND FLATS 243 

After a while the mesmerisl made several passes 
designed to bring me to. But herein he failed. 
Again and again he tried. It was no good. The 
only movement I made was to bite my lip so that 
it bled, and roll up my eyes horribly, leaving only 
the whites visible. 

The mesmerist began to get badly frightened, 
and afteY one or two more vain attempts he ran 
out of the house to, as he said, fetch a doctor. 
Meanwhile the others carried me, still rigid, 
upstairs to bed. 

A friend volunteered to stay and watch me, and 
after a while I came to of my own accord. 

( Thank God ! " exclaimed my friend, and called 
out for the others to come up and have a look 
at me. 

" Fine bit of play-acting, wasn't it ? " I said. 

But the others would not believe me. They 
were quite sure in their own minds that I really 
had been mesmerised, and only when I repeated 
to them practically the whole of the conversation 
that had passed between them while I was in my 
supposed trance, did they realise how completely 
they had been spoofed. 

As for the mesmerist, he never came back to the 
hotel. Instead of going for a doctor, he had made 
a bee-line for the railway station, and skipped the 
town. Evidently he thought it was all up 
with me. 

Here is a spoof bet which may be new to my 
readers. You select a man of obviously bigger 
physique than yourself, and offer to wager him, 
say, a sovereign, that you measure the bigger 
round the chest. If he takes you on, as he 
probably will, you hand him a tape measure and 
say, " So as to be perfectly fair, you measure me, 
and I'll measure you." When the test is finished 



244 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

he will say that he has won. " Oh, no," you reply, 

I've won. You are the bigger man ot the two, 

and it was I who measured you." I spoofed one of 

the ' fliest men in England with this trick on 

_ 

one occasion. 

Another time I was spoofed myself at the 
Empire, Liverpool, where the Macnaughtons took 
my carefully prepared pack of cards and stuck 
them together with glue, so that they formed a 
more or less solid block. T:_e result, when I 
started to attempt to perform my tricks with them, 
can be more easily imagined than described. 

By the way, speaking of card tricks, the 
majority of these, though infinitely puzzling to the 
observer, are usually si :f a quite simple 

explanation. Take, for example, that known as 
11 The Two Queens," and which t infrequently 

worked on racecour- a view to fleecing : 

public. 

The way it is done is as follows : The performer 
takes the two Queens of either colour, black or 
red, and holds them up so that the audience can 
see them. Cutting the remainder of the pack into 
two lots he places one of the Queens upon the top 
half. At this point the performer's hat fails off, or 
his attention is apparently distracted by some 
cause, and he turns away from the cards, still 
holding the other Queen. Someone in the company 
meanwhile quickly places a few cards from the 
bottom half of the pack upon the Queen, which 
had been placed upon the top half. When the 
performer resumes he announces that he will place 
the second Queen upon the and accordingly 

places it upon the cards. He now asserts that the 
two Queens are together, and offers to bet that he 
will produce them in tl - order. The audience, 
thinking otherwise, make various bets, and then 



SHARPS AND FLATS 245 

the performer dealing the cards from the bottom 
of the pack produces the two Queens one after the 
other. This is accomplished by means of a con- 
federate. When the performer has shuffled and 
cut, he notes the top card when the pack is cut. 
One of the Queens is placed on this card. When 
the hat falls off the confederate places the other 
cards as described, and the Queens are really 
separated. In dealing from the bottom the per- 
former watches carefully until he arrives at the 
card which he had previously noted when the cut 
was made. When this is dealt he knows that the 
next card will be one of the Oueens. So, instead of 
dealing this he pulls it back underneath the pack 
with the fingers of the left hand, and continues 
dealing. He produces the other Queen, and it is 
then a simple matter to deal the first Queen which 
he had pulled back. A shrewd spectator would 
notice that the Queens appear in reverse order to 
that in which the}^ were placed in the pack, but 
audiences are so amazed that they don't notice 
a little thing like that. 

It is not by means of card tricks alone, however, 
that the unwary are cheated on racecourses, and 
elsewhere. I could fill a good-sized volume if I 
liked with accounts of the wiles of some of the 
" fly " gentry frequenting these places. One of 
them once " had " me beautifully, though, I need 
hardly say, not at cards. It concerned a diamond 
ring. 

The man, a well-known Birmingham racecourse 
frequenter, brought it to me while I was playing 
there, and asked me to buy it, saying that he had 
won it at cards. This story, I reflected, might or 
might not be true. Anyway, it was nothing to do 
with me. I am a good judge of diamonds, and I 
examined this one very carefully. 



246 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

I saw at once that it was a splendid blue-white 
stone, and worth certainly not less than £80. The 
man asked me £40 for it. I offered him £20, 
which sum, after some hesitation, he agreed to 
take. " Hand over the money," he said, " and 
the ring is yours." 

This conversation took place in one of the hotel 
bars in the centre of the city, and I had not so 
much money on me. I accordingly told him to 
bring the ring round that night to the theatre 
where I was playing, and I would let him have the 
money ; which he did. The stone was to all 
appearance perfect, blazing with fire, and I put 
it in my waistcoat pocket, thinking what a nice 
surprise it would be for my wife. 

So it was a surprise, but not in the way I 
intended. For next morning all the blaze and 
beauty had gone out of the stone. It looked like 
a piece of ordinary glass. I rushed round to a 
jeweller's with it. " You've been had," he 
explained. " The stone is not a diamond at all, 
but a jargoon, a gem whose lustre, especially if it 
is well polished, exactly resembles that of the 
diamond. Only it is extremely evanescent." 
I may say that the stone I first examined was 
a genuine diamond, and worth fully four times 
what I agreed to pay. It was afterwards that the 
jargoon was substituted for it, and in the hurry of 
dressing I did not notice the difference. 

Here is a tricky way of tossing for drinks and 
winning. It cannot be described as cheating, 
being rather in the nature of forced suggestion. 
You say to a man, " Come on, I'll toss you for 
drinks round," at the same time pulling out a coin 
and placing it flat on the counter, or elsewhere, 
with the tail uppermost, and, of course, covered so 
that he cannot see it. " Come on," you say, 



SHARPS AND FLATS 247 

speaking very rapidly, yet distinctly. " Cry to me. 
Which is it ? Heads or tails." 

In nine cases out of ten the man will cry heads, 
but it must be done quickly, without giving him 
time to think ; and you want to lay a little 
emphasis, but not too much, on the word " heads." 
Anybody can try this for themselves, and they will 
find that what I say is true. 

Another coin-tossing trick ! Where you are 
asked to " cry to pieces," a favourite trick with 
men who are not too particular is to say, with 
affected carelessness : " Oh, 111 have the same as 
the top one." In this way, if the first coin is a 
head, he starts off with one to the good, and the 
man who puts down the coins is, of course, handi- 
capped to that extent. 

Speaking of racecourse sharps, I once was 
tackled by a gang of three-card men under rather 
peculiar circumstances. I was working at the 
Empire, Newcastle, where I topped the bill as the 
World's Premier Card Manipulator. With me 
were the Poluski Brothers, and Sam Poluski, who 
is well known in the profession as a sportsman, 
introduced me to a local tout, called Bunny, who 
used to back horses for him, and incidentally, if 
he heard of a "good thing," he would tell Sam 
about it, and Sam would tip him for his trouble 
if the horse won. It it didn't win, then Bunny 
got his commission from the bookie with whom 
he placed the bet, so that he was all right either 
way. 

Bunny was perfectly straight himself, but he, 
of course, knew all " the boys." Well, on the 
Friday of the week I was there, there was what 
they call up there " a flapper meeting " ; that is 
to say, a small race meeting got up under National 
Hunt rules among the farmers and others. I went 



248 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

there alone, but took Bunny with me as a sort of 
bodyguard, and to show me the ropes. 

The place where the meeting was to be held was 
about half an hour's run from Newcastle by train, 
and I arranged for Bunny to meet me at the 
Central Station. I got there first, and I must say 
that I had seldom seen a tougher-looking crowd 
assembled anywhere. By and by Bunny turned 
up, and I took two first-class tickets, for I didn't 
like the look of the mob on the platform, and I 
thought that by this means, and if we waited until 
the train was just about to start, we might 
manage to get a compartment to ourselves. If we 
could do this, I reflected, we were all right, for the 
train, a special race one, did not stop until we got 
to the course. 

I was at this time a youngish lad, with curly 
hair, and looked, I suppose, a typical " pie-can/' 
which is the bookies' way of characterising a 
" mug." The train was a bit late at starting, and 
while we were waiting I distinctly saw Bunny 
" give the office " to a gang of " the boys." 

" Here, Bunny," I said, taking him to one side. 
" No larks. What's the game ? " 

" All right, Carlton, old man," he replied. 
" Don't get alarmed. I'm only going to have a 
lark with some of these chaps." 

I wasn't at all reassured at this, for the gang 
didn't look to me at all the kind it was in the least 
advisable to play larks on. However, there was 
not time to say anything further, for at that 
moment the whistle blew, and Bunny jumped into 
an empty first-class compartment and I after him, 
so too did five or six of the boys ; the same Bunny 
had given the tip to. Just as the train was 
starting a detective poked his head in the window, 
and cried warningly, " Beware of card-sharpers." 



SHARPS AND FLATS 249 

I quickly slipped my diamond pin out of my tie, 
and stuck it in the back of my waistcoat. Then 
I buttoned up my coat over my inside pocket, 
where the bulk of my money was, and waited. 

I hadn't long to wait. Within a minute or two 
the three cards were produced, and the old 
familiar performance gone through ; the men, 
all apparently strangers to each other, winning and 
losing alternately. Bunny also took a hand and 
won. Was he not, in a sense, " one of the boys " ? 
It was, of course, all stage-managed for my 
benefit. 

But I wasn't having any. Or at least I pre- 
tended I wasn't. When I did at length yield to 
their repeated entreaties, I won a sovereign, and 
declined to bet any more. Thereupon they began 
to get nasty ; so, thinking the thing had gone far 
enough, I said : " Look here, boys, you took me 
for a pie-can. Well, I'm not. But I'm a sport. 
I don't want your money. Here's your quid back, 
and here's another to get drinks with." 

Then, picking up the cards, I remarked quite 
casually : " Let me show you how we work the 
three-card trick down where I come from." 

So saying I took out three cards, including the 
Queen of Spades, and throwing them down on 
their faces, I invited them to pick out the " lady." 

One of them selected a card. It was the wrong 
one. Then another of the gang chose another. 
It also was not the " lady." Then I myself turned 
up the remaining card. And that also was not the 
" lady." There was no Queen there. I had palmed 
it, and substituted a plain card for it. 

The sharpers gazed at me in blank amazement. 
Bunny, in his corner, rolled in his seat, and 
screamed with laughter. 

Then, when he had recovered his breath, he 



250 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

said : " Don't you know who it is ? Why you 
were all with me last night at the Empire, and saw 
him on the stage there. It's Carlton, the world's 
premier card-manipulator." 

And he went off into another fit of laughter. 

But " the boys " didn't laugh. They had wasted 
the journey, to say nothing of their fare money. 
And the language they used to Bunny was quite 
unprintable. 

Of course none of them had recognised me 
without my stage make-up. 

I don't know why it should be so, but it is a 
fact that we professionals are exceedingly prone 
to play larks on one another. A new-comer in the 
profession is especially likely to find himself made 
a butt of. It is good-natured chaff, and if he takes 
it in good part — well. If not, why so much the 
worse for him. 

Once, when I was performing at Liverpool, I 
recall that there was a " new chum " there who 
was doing some sort of show business in a sketch. 
He was rather stuck-up and touchy, and he was 
put through it rather unmercifully in consequence. 
One night, for instance, he would find his boots had 
been securely nailed to his dressing-room floor. 
Another time the sleeves of his coat would be sewn 
together, and so on. 

Well, one night he was waiting in the wings for 
his cue to go on, and was holding a tall hat in his 
hand, which he used in his performance. Suddenly 
this was snatched from him from behind, and 
jammed on his head. 

" There you are," he cried to the manager, 
without turning round. " These fellows are 
always playing larks on me before it is my cue to 
go on. It puts me off my business. I wonder you 
allow it." 



SHARPS AND FLATS 251 

That's all right from your point of view," 
replied the manager. <4 But the culprit in this case 
is too big for me to tackle. Better have a go at 
him yourself. " 

Whereupon the victimised " pro." swung round 
on his heel in order to take stock of the offender. 
He found himself face to face with one of Lock- 
hart's elephants. The beast had been trained by 
its master to do the trick, and seeing the hat held 
temptingly had taken advantage of the oppor- 
tunity. 

When the dog-muzzling order was previously 
in force, Dan Lesson, who was one of the best- 
known practical jokers in the profession, one day 
fixed a needle to the front of his dog's muzzle, 
allowing it to project an eighth of an inch. And — 
well you know how friendly dogs are. Another 
" pro." fixed a similar needle arrangement to the 
" push " of his electric bell. 

Yet another wheeze of his was to address about 
fifty envelopes to as many of his friends and 
acquaintances. These he posted, but omitted to 
put stamps on. Inside was a card, with these 
words neatly inscribed on it : " Bet you a penny 
you paid twopence." 

I think that the following incident is about as 
perfect an example of the " double cross " as it is 
possible to conceive. 

I was playing in a certain town in the Midlands, 
and amongst the other performers there was a 
bright, particular " Knut " who was, as he 
himself expressed it, " dead nuts " on the girls. 
The rest of us took advantage of this to, as we 
thought, play a game on him. 

One day he received a letter, written in a 
disguised feminine hand by one of us, which ran 
as follows : " Dear Mr. Blank, — I have seen your 



252 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

show from the front and I think it's simply 
ripping. But not more ripping, I am sure, than 
you are yourself if one could only get to know you. 
May I have that pleasure ? If so, meet me 
opposite the fountain in the park to-morrow after- 
noon at three. I will wear a blue navy costume 
trimmed white, suede gloves, and a red rose in my 
bodice. Signed : One of your admirers — Bessie." 

All the next morning the recipient of this 
missive strutted about looking awfully pleased 
with himself, but, of course, said not a word to 
anyone. Meanwhile we were busy helping a 
female impersonator, who chanced to be playing 
at the same hall, to make up as the supposititious 
Bessie. 

Shortly before three he took his place on a seat 
near the fountain, blue costume, toque, suede 
gloves, and rose, all complete. We were hidden 
in the undergrowth at the back, on tiptoe of 
expectation, ready to enjoy our carefully planned 
joke. 

Presently along comes Mr. Knut, dressed to 
kill. The female impersonator put on his most 
engaging smile, and half rose to greet him, when 
to his and our astonishment and dismay a real 
girl dressed in exactly the same fashion stepped 
forward from another direction, and taking his 
arm, proudly marched off with him. 

He had, of course, tumbled to our little joke, and 
had double-crossed us. Needless to say we felt 
rather small. 

Here is another " girl story." I had in my 
employ at one time a big, handsome chap who was 
also, like the knut mentioned above, exceedingly 
fond of the fair sex. He was a favourite with them, 
too, so that he practically had a sweetheart in 
every town we visited. 



SHARPS AND FLATS 253 

He used to boast to me of his many conquests, 
giving me nanus and full particulars. Of these I 
made mental notes. 

Finally he became engaged to be married to one 
of his numerous flames, the wedding being fixed 
for a certain day at noon. Early that morning I 
sent off prepaid telegrams to the managers of 
various halls in towns where we had performed, 
and where I knew that old sweethearts of his 
resided, asking them to wire the bridegroom as 
per the formula I sent them. These telegrams I 
arranged to arrive at the bride's house, addressed 
of course to the bridegroom, shortly before the 
ceremony. 

I was not there, but I heard afterwards graphic 
accounts of what happened. It appears that the 
first wire arrived a few minutes before the happy 
couple were due to leave for the church. The 
bridegroom, quite unsuspicious, seized it and 
opened it, imagining it to be a telegram of con- 
gratulation. 

But directly he glanced at it, his face fell, and 
he tried to put it in his pocket. The bride, how- 
ever, seeing that something was wrong, snatched 
it from him, and read it herself. Then she gave a 
scream and fell in a faint. 

The telegram, which was from Halifax, read as 
follows : " You base deceiver. Shall be there to 
forbid the marriage. Think of our child. Alice." 

In vain the poor chap protested. Nobody would 
believe him ; and to make matters worse, a few 
minutes later another telegram arrived, from 
Manchester this time. It read : " Are you going 
to desert me like this after faithfully promising to 
marry me ? Beware ! Jennie.' ' 

Other similar wires came to hand at intervals, 
and the bride insisted, on arriving at the church, 



254 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

on showing the whole batch to the clergyman who 
was to perform the ceremony. He, good man, 
insisted on postponing the marriage for an hour 
in order to see if anybody turned up to forbid it. 
Naturally, however, and of course, nobody did ; 
but in order I suppose to make assurance doubly 
sure, when he came to the part where any person 
desirous of forbidding the ceremony is invited to 
come forward, he repeated the words slowly three 
times before finally uniting the couple. 

I may say that I never really thought that my 
little joke would have been taken so seriously by 
all concerned, or I would most certainly never have 
perpetrated it. 

Another practical joke in which a " dud " 
telegram played a part rather misfired towards 
the end. The affair happened at Brighton, where, 
as it chanced, a famous theatrical star (whom I 
will call Estelle), a well-known mimic (who shall be 
Smith), and myself were performing. 

Each of us was putting up at a different hotel, 
Estelle (I think) at the Grand, and Smith at the 
Metropole, where he had engaged rooms for 
himself and wife, who was devoted to him, and 
who was also very, very jealous of him. 

Knowing this, I got my assistant, a man named 
McMillan, to disguise his handwriting, and dis- 
patch to Smith a fake telegram as if from 
Estelle, couched in imitation French, and asking 
him (Smith) to come round and see her at her 
hotel that evening. The wire, I may add, ran 
something like this : " Voulez vous mi sheri sus 
soir ? respondez tuts weet. — Estelle/ ' 

I got McMillan to send the wire off from the 
Brighton Post Office early in the morning, and it 
was delivered to Smith, as I had foreseen, while 
the couple were in bed. 



SHARPS AND FLATS 255 

Smith read it, and tried to smuggle it on one 
side, but his wife snatched it away and read it 
also, Then! of course, the fat was in the fire. 
The good lady was out of bed in an instant, and 
throwing on some clothes, rushed round to Estello's 
hotel. 

" You try to steal my husband ! " she screamed 
indignantly to the astonished and but half-awake 
actress. " You wicked woman ! " 

In vain did poor Estelle protest, and that with 
almost equal indignation. "I no want your 
husband. Your husband — pouf ! I can have 
kings ! Kings, I tell you ! " 

" A king ! " corrected Mrs. Smith, with em- 
phasis. 

"Well, then, a king," agreed Estelle. "And he 
is very good to me. Everyone knows that. What I 
want with your husband ? " 

There was a lot more talk, and in the end 
Mrs. Smith, still unconvinced, went back to her 
hotel, packed up her things, and took the first 
train back to London. 

Soon afterwards Smith came to me and told 
me all about it, asking my advice. 

" Somebody's been having a game with you/' 
I said. " Let's go round to the Post Office, and 
try and get a look at the original of the telegram/ ' 

We went, and after some demur the postmaster 
allowed us to see the telegraph form. Smith 
scanned it carefully, but McMillan had well carried 
out my instructions as to disguising his hand- 
writing, and he could make nothing of it. 

Then, in an evil moment, it occurred to him to 
turn the form over, and there at the back, in the 
space provided for the name and address of the 
sender, he read, " Carlton, Hippodrome, Brighton/ ' 
My dresser, instead of putting the name and 



256 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

address of the actress, had, in a moment of 
temporary forgetfulness, inserted my own. 

Smith, I will say, took the matter in good part ; 
but I had a rough time explaining matters to his 
wife. 

A joke I once saw played by one friend on 
another struck me as being amazingly funny. One 
was clean-shaven, the other had a long thick 
beard, into which his friend stuck some half- 
dozen prawns, without, of course, his being aware 
of it. It did look funny. Try it yourself. But 
don't try it on a man who is bigger than you, or 
possibly awkward results may ensue. 

The late Dan Lesson, as I have already re- 
marked, was a rare hand at these sort of practical 
jokes, and speaking of prawns somehow naturally 
reminds me of kippers. On one occasion Dan was 
dissatisfied at the way the orchestra played his 
music, so he got a none too fresh kipper and 
tacked it inside the bass viol. In a few days 
that orchestra was the sickest orchestra in 
England. The smell was something awful. It 
was hot weather, and the theatre was a bit close 
anyhow. They pulled up the boards. They even 
tore up the drains. But they didn't succeed in 
locating where the smell came from. For all I 
know the mummified remains of that kipper, now 
of course no longer smellable, is in that viol yet. 

The trick, I may add, is an old one with music- 
hall artistes who want to get even with a bad 
landlady, the kipper in this case being nailed under 
the leaf of the table near the centre. I knew of 
one case where the local sanitary inspector was 
actually called in. He had all the drains up, and 
then failed to find out whence the overpowering 
odour emanated from. 

Another similar " stunt " is to put a pinch of 



SHARPS AND FLATS 257 

gunpowder in a bloater, and hand her the doctored 
fish with strici instructions thai it is to be grilled, 
not fried. 

Many funny stones could be told by performers 
of their experiences with their landladies. Of 
course, there are good and bad of every kind, good 
cooks and bad cooks, honest women and dis- 
honest women. 

My Christmas dinner in Edinburgh where I was 
performing in pantomime some years ago I am 
not likely to forget. My mother sent me a Christ- 
mas pudding, and she prided herself on her skill 
in making them. I bought a fine turkey, and 
invited all my pals round to my special Christmas 
dinner. Of course in Scotland they do not recog- 
nise Christmas Day, and all the theatres and 
music-halls are open, New Year's Day being the 
big holiday there. However, to get back to the 
Christmas dinner ! I had previously told all 
my pals how nice my mother made Christmas 
puddings, but imagine my surprise when my 
landlady served up the turkey — she had stuffed it 
with the pudding ! 

On another occasion when I was performing at 
the Theatre Royal, Dublin, my wife asked me 
what I would like for supper, and I answered, 
"sausages, mashed potatoes and onions/' telling 
her at the same time to be sure to ask the land- 
lady if she knew how to cook them. She replied, 
" Av coorse," adding that she had cooked them 
hundreds of times before. When I got them, 
however, they were served up like Irish stew. 
She had put the beautiful Cambridge sausages, 
the onions, and potatoes in the pot together, and 
said, on being remonstrated with: " Sure, that's 
the way we cook them in Oir eland." This inci- 
dent was capped later on at Cork where I fancied 



258 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

a shoulder of mutton. The landlady fried it in a 
frying-pan. 

I remember once a very dishonest landlady in 
Leeds, the pick of the bunch. I used to go out 
and buy my own things in those days and always 
kept my tea, sugar, etc., in a little cupboard in 
my combined room. Everything used to vanish, 
but she always had an excuse on the tip of her 
tongue, so after half a bottle of whisky had gone 
one night I put some jalap in another whisky 
bottle. I had to laugh, for she was running up 
and down stairs all night long complaining of 
pains in her stomach, but although half the 
contents of the whisky bottle containing the 
jalap had gone, she persisted in declaring that she 
had never touched it. Later on, when my tea 
had nearly all vanished from the caddy, and she 
had the audacity to complain to me as to how 
much tea I drank, I carefully caught a fly and put 
it alive in the tea caddy. When I got home, and 
took down the caddy to put my tea in the pot, 
the fly had gone, but even then she would not 
admit her dishonesty. So I made up my mind to 
catch her properly the next time. I carefully 
counted six potatoes, not letting her know I had 
counted them, and asked her to boil them for my 
dinner ; but she had me again, she mashed them ! 

To " have " the average man on " a little bit of 
string ' is quite easy, and some of the simplest 
" gags ' I have found the most effective. For 
instance, you ask a man if he is good at mental 
arithmetic. The probability is he says that he is. 
You then ask him two or three exceedingly easy 
questions, such as, for example, what is twice 
seven, how many times does six go into eighteen, 
and so on. Then you say, "How many penny 
buns make a dozen," followed, when he has 



SHARPS AND FLATS 259 

answered it correctly, by the catch question, 
" How many half-penny ones ? " He is practically 
certain to answer on the spur of the moment, 
44 Twenty-four." 

Here is another equally simple catch. You take 
a piece of white paper, tell a man to place his fore- 
finger on it, and offer to bet him you can draw a 
ring round it with a piece of lead pencil that he 
can't lift his finger out of. You then draw a small 
ring on the paper round the tip of the ringer, and 
ask him to lift his finger out of it. Of course he 
does so quite easily. You repeat this once or 
twice ; then you draw your ring round the fore- 
finger itself. 

Or you get a man to put an easily fitting ring 
on his little finger, then join the tip of your little 
finger to the tip of his, and ask him if he thinks 
it possible for you to remove the ring from his 
finger without moving yours. He will almost 
certainly pronounce the feat an impossible one, 
when all you have to do is to slip the ring off his 
little finger and on to yours, and the trick is done. 
The ring is no longer on his finger. It is on yours. 
And the connection between the two fingers, yours 
and his, has not been severed for an instant. 
Then you say : " And now do you think it is 
possible for me to take the ring off both our fingers 
without severing the connection.' ' He is sure to 
say, " No." Whereupon you just lift the ring so 
that it does not touch either, and the trick is done. 

These little " spoofs " sound very simple after 
they are explained, but all the same I have " had " 
some of the smartest men for " drinks round " 
with them. Once, too, in Denver, I recollect a 
professional gambler rather got on my nerves by 
bragging about the amount of money he carried 
about with him. 



260 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

" Look here/' I said suddenly, withdrawing my 
closed fist from my trousers pocket, " I'll bet you 
five dollars I've got more money in my hand than 
you have." 

" Done ! " he cried, and diving his hand into his 
pocket he withdrew it stuffed full of gold pieces. 

Mine held a matter of a few cents. " I've won," 
he cried, exhibiting his fistful of wealth. 

" Not at all," I retorted, " I said in my hand. 
That money is not in my hand ; it's in yours. 
You've lost. Pay up." 

Which he did, with the best grace he could. 

A few days later he met me, and told me that he 
had won over five hundred dollars from fellow 
gamblers by means of the trick. And these men 
were supposed to be among the " widest " on the 
American continent. 

Here is a trick game with matches which sounds 
as if nothing could be fairer, and which yet is, in 
reality, an arrant swindle. The man who wants 
to practise it starts off by telling his opponent 
(and dupe) that it is a Chinese gambling game. 
This tends to throw him off his guard. 

He then takes a number of matches and places 
them under his hat. Next he tells the other fellow 
to take any number of matches from the box, 
place them on the table, and lift the hat. " If," 
he says, " you have put down an even number of 
matches, and the sum total of both heaps of 
matches, yours and mine, is even, then you win. 
If you have put down an odd number, and the sum 
total of both heaps of matches, yours and mine, is 
odd, then also you win. Otherwise you lose." 

This seems perfectly fair and aboveboard, yet in 
reality the game is entirely in the hands of the 
man who puts the matches under the hat. If he 
puts an even number of matches (say six) there, 



SHARPS AND FLATS 261 

and the other man puis down an even number 
(say lour) then the total (ten) is an even number, 
and the oilier fellow wins. 11 the oilier man puts 
down three he also wins, lie having put down an 
odd number, and the sum total of the two heaps 
being odd. 

In short, if I, who am supposed to be working 
the trick, choose to put an even number of matches 
under the hat in the first instance, then the other 
man must win. But equally, if I put an odd 
number, he must lose, for in that case if he puts an 
odd number down the sum total of the two heaps 
is bound to be even, and if he puts an even 
number down the sum total is bound to be odd. 

Here is a trick which invariably creates a- good 
deal of fun and amusement. I call it " The 
Vanishing Hair." 

At an evening party, or other similar gathering, 
you pluck a hair — first asking permission, of 
course ! — from the head of one of the ladies 
present. This, you say, you will cause to vanish 
mysteriously, and you get someone to tie a knot 
in it so as to identify it. This, to create an 
impression. 

You thereupon call for a small flat tea-tray, 
into which you pour a tumbler of clean water, 
forming a light film upon the surface, on which 
you place the hair, where it floats serenely, plain 
for all folk to see. 

" Now," you say, " you all see the hair is there. 
Watch closely while I count three, and at the 
word ' three ' you will see it suddenly and mysteri- 
ously disappear." 

At this they all crowd round, bending closer 
down and peering intently at the hair floating on 
the thin film of water. 

" One — two — three ! " you say, and bring your 



2 6 2 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

hand down flat with force on the hair wh™ of 

huSlfbS" ffieS UP - int ° ** SS atd they 
ii urneaiy back away wiping their evp* M^n 



CHAPTER XVIII 

FLOTSAM AND JETSAM 

Sharing terms — Some tricks of the trade — Spoof telegrams — A 
Bradford dispute — I engage to fight " The Terror of the 
Meat Market " — A packed house — I enter a lion's den — 
And am glad to get out again — A trick the police foiled — 
Tricks of trick swimmers — I learn a secret or two — Pigeon 
shooting extraordinary — Satan's Dream — Royalty at a 
side-show — My mother hears me over the electrophone — 
At Wentworth Woodhouse — A kind reception — My em- 
barrassing mistake — An angler's paradise. 

I THINK I can truthfully lay claim to have 
been one of the very earliest pioneers in 
the Music-hall world of the system now 
generally known as " sharing terms." 

This means that the star turn for the week takes 
a certain fixed percentage of the gross profits, and 
also takes over the artistes already engaged by the 
management, adding at his own discretion, and, 
of course, at his own expense, whatever other 
turns he thinks fit. 

In this case it is, of course, greatly to his 
interest to draw as full houses as possible during 
the period of his engagement, and many and 
varied are the dodges I have resorted to in order 
to, in my case, bring about this very desirable 
result. 

One of these, of my own invention, I may call 
the Fake Telegram Wheeze. In the old days, 
before the war, duplicate telegrams used to be 
taken at threepence apiece, provided they were 
not over twelve words, and that the same words 
were used for the whole batch of telegrams handed 

263 



% 



264 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

in. Taking advantage of this concession, I would 
sent off perhaps a couple of hundred wires as 
follows : " See ( Carlton ' Empire to-night. He's 
marvellous. Love. Annie.' ' 

These would be dispatched to different 
addresses selected at random from the local 
directory of the town where I was showing, and 
used inevitably to set people talking : which was 
what I wanted. I am a great believer in the late 
Mr. Barnum's motto : " Talk about me ! Good 
or bad ! But for God's sake talk about me ! " 

At the Palace Theatre, Bradford, once I was 
working on sharing terms, the arrangement being 
that I was to receive fifty-five per cent, of the 
gross takings and pay the company. When I 
arrived at the town on the Monday morning I was 
somewhat surprised to see bills up all over the 
place announcing a grand boxing tournament for 
Friday afternoon, at which the finals for the 
amateur championship of Yorkshire were to be 
decided. 

The manager of the Palace at that time was 
named Harrison, and, of course, I asked him about 
the matinee. " Oh," he said, " that's a special 
event. I shall have a packed house, I hope ; 
certainly not less than £150 in it." 

" Good ! " I exclaimed. " That'll mean £yo or 
£80 for me." 

Harrison laughed, then winked. " Don't you 
wish you may get it ? "he said. 

" Well, of course," I replied. " But why 
wouldn't I get it ? " 

" Why it's nothing at all to do with you," he 
retorted, beginning to look serious. 

" Oh, isn't it ? " I said. " You just look at our 
contract. It says that I am to have fifty-five 
per cent, of the gross takings for this week. If 



FLOTSAM AND JETSAM 265 

you're going to wedge in a matinee I'm entitled 
to my fifty-live per cent." 

There was a lot more talk, and in the end he said 
he washed his hands of the whole business, and I'd 
better telephone through to Mr. Macnaughton, in 
London, whose tour it was. 

This I did, and after a lot of palaver I issued an 
ultimatum to him in the following terms. " Look 
here, Mr. Macnaughton," I said, " I agree that a 
mistake has been made. But the mistake isn't 
mine. Now you're a sportsman, so am I, and 
I'll tell you what I'll do. Instead of fifty-five 
per cent., to which I am legally entitled according 
to the strict letter of my contract, I'll take twenty 
per cent., and I will myself fight anybody Harrison 
likes to put up, as an extra attraction. Then you 
will have a full house, if you like." 

" Agreed ! "he said. " That's a bargain. Send 
Harrison to the 'phone." 

In five minutes it was fixed up, and the agree- 
ment was signed there and then. 

But Harrison was a bit nettled over it, and 
turning to me, he said : "It serves you right. 
I've got a chap here who's a terror. They call 
him the ' Champion of the Meat Market.' He was 
unlucky enough to get beaten on points in the 
semi-finals last week. I'm going to put him up 
against you, and I hope you get a jolly good 
hiding." 

" All right," I said. " I don't care. Put up 
whom you like. For forty pounds or so I'll take 
the hiding, if it comes off, and be thankful." 

That afternoon I made inquiries in the town, 
and everywhere I heard alarming accounts of the 
hitting powers of my prospective opponent ; so 
I promptly went into training for the intervening 
three days. 



266 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

Meanwhile the bills were got out, and the affair 
at once became the talk of the town. Every seat 
that could be booked was taken in no time, and 
when Friday afternoon came round the " house 
full " boards were up in ten minutes after the doors 
were open. 

I was in my dressing-room getting ready, when 
in stalks a brawny giant and inquiries : " Are you 
Carlton ? " 

" That's me," I answered. 

" Well," he said, "I'm the Champion of the 
Meat Market, and I gotter win. Unnerstand that ! 
I don't want to hurt you. But all my pals are in 
front, an' I just gotter win.' 

"All right," I said. "We'll see about that 
when the time comes." 

Well, we entered the ring, and the first round 
had no sooner started than I saw he meant to 
knock me out if he could, so I let him have a 
straight left, and repeated the dose at what I 
considered suitable intervals. In the beginning 
of the second round we clinched, and the big man 
whispered in my ear : "Hi, you go easy with that 
left of yours." " Right ! " I whispered back. 
" But you stop swinging that right of yours." 

After this the going was a bit easier, and in the 
end I won easily on points ; greatly to the disgust 
of the Champion of the Meat Market. My share 
of the takings came to £34, and I enjoyed myself 
immensely. My opponent got ten shillings, and 
I don't think he enjoyed himself at all. Harrison 
was frankly annoyed. 

Another adventure I had, out of which, how- 
ever, I got no enjoyment whatever, was when I 
was trapped in a den of lions at the Theatre Royal, 
Oldham. They were Madame Ella's lions, she 
being in the bill with me that week. During 



FLOTSAM AND JETSAM 267 

rehearsal on Monday on the stage I got near the 
cage where the animals were, and an attendant 
pushed me away, saying that the lions were 
dangerous, and that one of them had just clawed 
the I land of a railway porter. 

"Rot!" I replied. "They're as quiet as 
kittens. Why, I wouldn't mind doing my show in 
their den." 

" What's that you say, Carlton ? " interjected 
Mr. Dottridge, the proprietor of the theatre, who 
was seated in front watching the rehearsals. 

" These lions ! " I replied. " They're as quiet 
as kittens. I wouldn't mind giving my show in the 
den." 

" Really ? " 

" Certainly," I said, never dreaming that he 
would take it otherwise than as a joke. 

Nothing more was said, and that night I gave my 
two shows as usual. On Tuesday morning on 
leaving my lodgings I was thunderstruck at 
finding the hoardings covered with big, flaming 
posters announcing that " on Friday night 
'Carlton' will enter the lions' den and referee a 
billiard match between two local publicans on a 
miniature table — twenty-five up." 

Round I went to Mr. Dottridge, but I found him 
unsympathetic. " Why, man, they're as quiet as 
kittens," he said. 

I saw then that I had got to go through it, but 
I didn't relish it one little bit, and all the rest of 
the week I was thinking about the lion clawing 
the hand of the railway porter. 

Madame Ella somewhat reassured me, however, 
by saying that she did not intend to take the two 
most ferocious lions into the cage, and that she 
would have a couple of trained boarhounds in 
with us. The lions, she added, were afraid of the 



268 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

dogs, and she didn't see how, under the circum- 
stances, anything could happen. 

Well, Friday night came. A big cage had been 
built all round the stage, and after I had drunk a 
stiff brandy-and-soda I went in, accompanied by 
Madame Ella and the two publicans. The game 
began, but after a few strokes had been made one 
of the players, both of whom were obviously in 
a state of considerable trepidation, accidentally 
dropped his cue. 

This startled one of the lions, which let out a 
terrific roar and jumped from its perch. Both the 
players thereupon darted for the door. So did I, 
but in my excitement I tried to escape by opening 
it on the hinged side, and, of course, did not 
succeed. Meanwhile the lions were darting this 
way and that, Madame Ella shouting to me to 
get out quick, and lashing with her whip, while 
the dogs kept chasing them about the cage. 

Frankly, I was frightened out of my life. I 
thought my last hour had come. One of the lions 
switched me with his tail as he rushed by. The 
audience roared with laughter to see me tugging 
at the wrong side of the door in a vain attempt to 
open it, but for me it was no laughing matter. 
How I got out at last I have no clear recollection. 
All I know is that I got out somehow, or was 
pulled out by the attendant ; I am not sure 
which. Four weeks after one of these same lions 
got loose at Gloucester and killed his keeper. 

Another extra draw that I worked while on 
sharing terms at Hull, Huddersfield, and elsewhere, 
consisted in a variation of my old box trick. I used 
to have a packing-case made by some local 
carpenter, out of which I would escape after it had 
been nailed together, and roped and sealed, all in 
full view of the audience. The packing-case used 



FLOTSAM AND JETSAM 26 

to be on view outside of the theatre during 1h< 1 
week, and on the Friday nighl the house was 
invariably packed as full as it would hold. This 
was in 1903. 

Once, too, I conceived an idea for a variation of 
this trick, which I am convinced would have 
created a big sensation, and been heard of all over 
England, had I been allowed to perform it. My 
intention was to charter a tug, and allow myself 
to be dropped over into deep water inside the box. 
It wouldn't have made any difference to me, for 
I could have got out of the corded and locked box 
while it was under water as easily as I could on 
dry land. 

I had made all the preliminary arrangements. 
The crew of the tug were to drop me over the side, 
and if I did not release myself and come to the 
surface in three minutes by the watch, they were 
to haul the box up again in order to save my life. 
Meanwhile it was my intention to have dived 
under the tug's bottom after releasing myself, 
swim quietly away, and remain somewhere in 
hiding for a couple of days. I could picture to 
myself the consternation of the crew when, the 
stipulated three minutes having elapsed, they 
should haul up the box and find it empty, and also 
the excitement that would follow on my " mys- 
terious disappearance." It would have been a 
splendid " ad." But, alas ! I could not persuade 
the police that there was no danger in it, and at 
the last moment the scheme had to be abandoned. 

At Bradford Palace, on one occasion when I was 
there, some trick swimmers were performing in a 
big tank, and Harry Arnold, the manager, knowing 
that I rather fancied myself as a swimmer, 
challenged me to try and see which of us could 
pick up the most coins under water from the 



270 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

bottom of the tank. I readily agreed, and Harry 
invited a lot of local people there to witness the 
trial, which it was arranged should take place 
after the regular evening performance. 

Twenty-four pennies were dumped into the 
tank, then we threw dice for choice of entering the 
water. I won. They were my dice. 

I told him to go first, which he did, and much to 
my surprise he gathered up all the coins. Then 
it was my turn. I dived in the water, but found 
it was practically impossible to keep down. Nor 
could I easily find the pennies, for they, being the 
same colour as the copper bottom of the tank, 
were practically invisible. In the end I did 
manage, however, to gather together three or 
four, and came up again thoroughly exhausted. 
But I got even with them the next night. 

Just before the act was going on I threw a 
pennyworth of permanganate of potash into the 
water. The moment the swimmers started diving 
and stirred up the water, it became blood-red. 
You can imagine the rest. 

Afterwards Harry explained to me how the 
wheeze was worked. In the first place a man 
cannot possibly keep down in shallow water 
where there is no room for him to move about. 
He invariably bobs up to the surface, like a cork 
does. Trick swimmers who perform in these tanks 
always wear a leaden belt round their loins under 
their tights. Harry had borrowed this, and used it. 
Also, the pennies he had fished up were fastened 
together with invisible thread in the corner of 
the tank. After this explanation I did not feel 
chagrined any more at having been so completely 
beaten. 

This reminds me that there are tricks in all 
trades. I was once shown by a pal of mine how 



FLOTSAM AND JETSAM 271 

to win money at pigeon shooting. I had arranged 
a match with a man for £5 a side and twelve 
lunches ; 26 yards, 5 traps, best of 11 birds. The 
arrangement was that each was to supply the 
other's birds, the match to take place in a week's 
time. 

The odds were supposed to be ten to one on my 
opponent, as I was not shooting very well at the 
time. But my pal, who was up to all the dodges, 
assured me that he knew of a scheme that would 
ensure my winning. 

He was himself a great pigeon fancier, and 
possessed a fine strong lot of homing birds, which 
he kept in a barn at his place near Ilkley, in York- 
shire. We used to go over to his barn and catch 
a dozen or so of these birds in the dark, and shut 
them in a basket such as pigeon fanciers use. 

Then, for five mornings running, we took them 
out one at a time and put them in a trap. Round 
about were a lot of bo}^s, some with old tin cans 
to bang upon, some with handfuls of sand to throw 
at the pigeon directly the trap was sprung, and so 
on. We used these birds at the match for my 
opponent to shoot at, and. naturally when the trap 
w r as sprung there each pigeon thought that the 
same sort of thing was going to happen, and was 
up and away like a rocket. 

As a result my opponent only got two out of 
eleven birds. I got nine, and scooped in a lot of 
bets at long odds, for nearly everybody made sure 
the other chap was going to win. ' Where on earth 
did you get these birds from, Carlton ? " asked 
my opponent over the lunch that followed ; " I'd 
like to buy some." 

Billy Grant, the open champion of Scotland, and 
the proprietor of the King Edward Hotel, Bath 
Lane, Newcastle, saw me shoot a couple of times, 



272 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

and presumably he rather liked my form. Any- 
way, he made me join the Hotspur Gun Club, and 
suggested to me that I should go in training with 
him. " We can make a tidy bit of money," he 
said, " and we'll go halves in every thing/ ' 

I agreed, and I may say at once that between 
us we never lost. At the big shoot for the Sterling 
Cup presented by the Club, and open to all the 
North of England, held on February 4th, 1909, 
I killed twenty- two birds out of twenty-three. 
This was accounted a wonderful performance for 
a novice. 

For the benefit of those who are not familiar 
with pigeon shooting, I may explain that one is 
faced by five traps, and the man who is shooting 
does not know out of which trap the bird will be 
released. The pigeon must be killed within the 
thirty-five yards' boundary. 

As I was only a novice nobody took much 
notice of me at the start, but after I had shot 
twelve birds running the " bookies," and others 
who had bets on, began to look a bit worried, and 
some of them started making remarks with a view 
to putting me off my aim. " I'll take three to one 
you don't kill this bird," one of them would call 
out, just as I had my gun in readiness to shoot. I 
would turn half round to take the bet, and then 
get ready again, when another one would call out, 
" I'll take three to one you don't kill," and the 
whole performance would be gone over again. 

This sort of thing was, of course, very dis- 
concerting, but I went on killing my birds, and by 
and by there were only two of us left in. When we 
had each shot twenty birds, my opponent missed 
his twenty-first, and I had only to kill mine to 
win. I shot my bird, but it dropped just outside 
the boundary. 




CARI.TON AND BILLY GRANT, THE OPEN CHAMPION PIGEON SHOT 

OF SCOTLAND 



FLOTSAM AND JETSAM 273 

The excitement was now intense. H was my 
opponent's turn to shoot. He fired, and again he 
missed his bird. Again 1 had only to kill mine lo 
win, and the bookies started once more renewing 
their attempts to put me off my aim. So I lined 
them all up — there were six or eight of them — and 
laid them £3 to £1 each that I killed. Then I took 
up my position on the mark, the string was pulled, 
and I killed my bird within a yard of the trap. 

Now for the explanation of how I accomplished 
the feat, a wonderful one for a novice, as every- 
body who understands pigeon shooting will readily 
agree. During the fortnight or so preceding the 
match, Billy Grant had taken me out every 
morning to a quiet place in the country, and there 
set me shooting at sparrows released from a trap 
similar to a pigeon trap. 

" They're cheaper than pigeons," remarked 
Billy simply when I asked him why he employed 
sparrows. Later on, when I came to shoot for the 
cup, I understood his real reason. The pigeons 
looked to me like ostriches after the tiny sparrows, 
and I felt I simply couldn't miss them. 

Later on I shot for the championship of England 
at Hendon, where I thought myself unknown ; 
but I was quickly undeceived. Each competitor 
was allowed to take up to five chances at £5 a 
chance, and half-a-crown for each bird. I took 
three chances. 

A man named Dillon was the handicapper, and 
when I asked him where I stood he indicated the 
28 yards mark. I was taken aback at this, for 
I had reckoned on being placed on the 25 or 
26 yards mark, and I had my gun bored accord- 
ingly. Any good pigeon shooter will understand 
the importance of this. A gun in these contests 
is bored to allow of a certain " spread ' at a 



274 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

certain fixed distance, and mine being bored for 
25-26 yards, at 28 yards the spread would be too 
big. I could not expect to get the proper con- 
centration, and even if I hit the bird I could not 
be sure of bringing it down within the boundary. 

" Oh, but, Mr. Dillon," I objected, " I'm only 
a novice. Surely you're not going to put me back 
to 28 yards." 

But Dillon was adamant. " You can't f kid ' 
me," he retorted. " I know all about your per- 
formance up at Newcastle last February." 

After this, of course, there was no more to be 
said. I took my stand on the 28 yards mark, 
thereby giving three yards start to a man who had 
won the Grand Prix at Monte Carlo. As regards 
two of my shares I got knocked out in the fifth 
round, for though I shot my sixth bird on each 
occasion I did not succeed in bringing it down 
inside the boundary, owing to the shot spreading, 
exactly as I had foreseen. 

With my third chance, however, I killed eleven 
birds running before the same thing happened. 
The winner was the man who had carried off the 
Monte Carlo Grand Prix, and who shot off the 
25 yards mark. His was the "unlucky" number 
thirteen. 

Most " pro.'s " have had the honour of appearing 
before royalty ; or they say they have. It really 
did happen to me. I was showing at Earl's Court 
at the time ; a little side-show, entitled " Satan's 
Dream ; a Supernatural Illusion." It was an 
illusion of the kind that was just then all the rage, 
a girl's head on a pitch-fork, with the prongs 
sticking through, and straw hanging down. Why 
" Satan's Dream," I'm sure I don't know. But, 
anyway, it was a good drawing title, and I was 
coining money easy all day at sixpence a time for 



FLOTSAM AND JETSAM 275 

admission. " What's in a name ? " they say. My 
answer is : " Everything— when it comes to the 

show business." 

Well, one day I was standing outside my pitch 
as usual in the intervals of showing, pattering for 
an audience, when the late Duke of Cambridge 
came along, accompanied by Princess Beatrice 
and her children, and attended, of course, by the 
Earl's Court directors. Directly I saw them 
coming I made up my mind that I was going to 
have them inside my show, so I waited until they 
were a few yards away, and then I opened wide 
the gate, took off my hat, and bowed low. 

The Duke evidently thought that it was all 
part of the programme arranged for him, for he 
walked right in, and Princess Beatrice and her 
children followed as a matter of course. Naturally 
the directors could do nothing but follow on also ; 
but they looked at me very sternly, I noticed, as 
they trooped in. "A fine show," said the old 
Duke to me quite genially, when he passed out. 
Five minutes afterwards I had a big board up : 
" Patronised by Royalty." 

The following year, encouraged by my success, 
I put a really big show on, with ten or twelve 
tip-top illusions. But, alas! this was a failure. I 
was in a bad position, right behind the Big Wheel. 
I wanted to close down, but the directors wouldn't 
release me, and I had to go on showing to the end, 
losing money all the while. It was a heart- 
breaking experience. 

Speaking of Earl's Court reminds me that it 
was while my poor old mother was there on a 
visit one day that she heard me perform on a 
regular stage for the first and last time in her life. 
They had an electrophone there, a novelty at the 
time, and by arrangement with the man who was 



276 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

running it, I got him to allow my mother to be at 
the receiver just before I was due to appear at the 
Palace, in Shaftesbury Avenue. 

As everybody knows who has ever listened to a 
performance over the electrophone, not only is 
every word uttered on the stage by the performer 
clearly audible to the listener at the other end 
of the wire, but one hears the applause of the 
audience as well, assuming that there is any. As 
it happened I went very well that night, and the 
old lady was both surprised and delighted. 

In the middle, between two of my gags, I called 
out : " Are you there, mother ? Can you hear 
me ? " Whereupon, so I was told afterwards, the 
poor old lady broke down and cried like a child. 
She was very infirm at the time, and a cripple, and 
she died very soon afterwards. But it pleased me, 
nevertheless, to think that she had at least heard 
me perform, although she had never seen me on 
the stage. 

Reverting to my story of how I entertained the 
Duke of Cambridge and Princess Beatrice and 
children at my little Earl's Court side-show, I may 
remark that although this was my first appear- 
ance before royalty, it was by no means my last. 
And this leads up naturally to the subject of 
private entertainments before more or less 
eminent personages ; a side of an entertainer's 
life which is pleasant or the reverse, according to 
the people with whom he has to deal. 

Speaking generally, it has been my experience 
that the bigger the people are socially, the less 
" side " they put on, and the more courteous 
and considerate they almost invariably show 
themselves towards the performer or performers 
they summon to their houses. It is the newly 
rich, and the hangers-on to the fringe of society, 



FLOTSAM AND JETSAM 277 

who relegate, or try to relegate, the artiste to the 
servants' hall for his refreshments, etc., and 
otherwise show him by every means in their 
power how deep is the social gulf they imagine 
exists between the mere performer for money and 
themselves. 

As an example of the other kind of treatment, 
meted out to me by people of the highest social 
standing, the following plain, unvarnished account 
of a professional visit I paid in the autumn of 19 15 
to Wentworth Woodhouse will serve. This 
magnificent mansion, the Yorkshire seat of Earl 
Fitzwilliam, is one of the most beautiful and 
stately ancestral homes in England ; and to give 
some idea of its vast size I may state that in the 
front of the house alone there are more windows 
than there are days in the year. 

The occasion of my visit was a garden-party 
and entertainment given by Lady Fitzwilliam in 
aid of one of the war funds. Half -a -guinea 
was charged for going over the house, and from 
this source alone over £1,000 accrued to the 
fund, so the number of guests present may be 
imagined. 

Soon after my arrival I was taken in hand by a 
pleasant affable lady, who conducted me all over 
the mansion, and who showed me, amongst other 
things, the royal suite of rooms, and the bed the 
King slept in when he visited the house, and 
wound up by ushering me into the magnificent 
marble hall on the ground floor where the per- 
formance was to take place. 

Here champagne cup and other refreshments 
were served, and my guide, when I had all along 
taken to be a governess, or something of that sort, 
moved away from me after shaking hands very 
cordially. I seized the opportunity of being alone 



278 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

for a moment to ask one of the many footmen 
standing about which was Lady Fitzwilliam. 

" That is her ladyship over there," replied the 
man, pointing to the individual I had supposed to 
be a governess. 

I confess I was never more taken aback in my 
life. Naturally I took an early opportunity of 
apologising, saying, what of course was the truth, 
that I had no idea as to her identity. Whereupon 
her ladyship laughed heartily, but quite good- 
naturedly ; and, in order to put me at my ease, 
asked me if I had seen the grounds. 

I replied that I had, and that I was greatly 
impressed by the size and beauty of the lakes, and 
I ended up by inquiring if there were any fish 
in them. 

" Yes, lots," replied her ladyship. " Are you 
fond of fishing ? " 

I answered that I was, whereupon she gave me 
an invitation to come over the next day, take a 
morning's angling, and have luncheon with the 
family. 

Of course, I gratefully accepted the kindly offer, 
and the next day, when I drove up in my car, 
I found awaiting me at the lodge gates Lord 
Fitzwilliam's agent, who went with me to the big 
lakes and told me the best places to fish. 

I angled all the morning, but for some reason 
or other I had no luck to speak of, and when I 
went in to lunch, and in answer to inquiries I said 
as much, Lady Fitzwilliam remarked : " Never 
mind, you shall fish this afternoon in the 
private lake where the trout are bred for the 
table." 

I was really almost overwhelmed by so much 
kindness, and still more did I realise all it meant 
when I went out and told the head keeper. 



FLOTSAM AND JETSAM 279 

" My word ! " he exclaimed. " You have got a 
privilege." 

''Are there many trout in there, then ? " I asked 
innocently. 

The man smiled. " Come along and I'll show 
you," he said. " We're just going to feed 'em." 

We went, and the keepers started throwing 
handfuls of fish offal into the water. Instantly all 
was commotion. Never had I seen such a sight. 
Hundreds of trout, great speckled beauties, rushed 
together, churning the water to foam, and leaping 
into the air in their excitement. 

Then we took a punt and went out on the lake, 
and oh the sport I had. I caught ten brace, which 
I was informed was the limit, and then put back 
to bank. 

Nor was this all. The following Christmas I was 
performing in pantomime at the Hippodrome, 
Sheffield, when to my unbounded surprise I 
received yet another invitation for a day's fishing. 
On this occasion also I had the honour of lunching 
with the family, and I was likewise introduced to 
Earl Fitzwilliam, who had just returned from the 
Front. 

He was affability itself, and before I took my 
leave, hearing from me that I intended shortly to 
pay a professional visit to Paris, he gave me a 
personal letter of introduction to the Hon. Maurice 
Brett, our Provost-Marshal there. 



CHAPTER XIX 

IN EGYPT IN WAR-TIME 

My trip to the land of the Pharaohs — Giants and dwarfs on 
a P. & O. liner — We are ordered into Plymouth — Sub- 
marines — An exciting experience — Destroyers to the rescue 
— The dwarfs and the lifebelts — Sports at sea — My con- 
tortionist is taken ill — Anxious days — Kindness of the 
Maharajah of Jodhpur — Arrival at Port Said — Cairo — 
I engage another contortionist — Pelted with money — Pigs 
at Port Said — Captured Turkish pontoons at Cairo — 
Turkish prisoners playing tennis — Interned enemy ships at 
Alexandria — Wounded soldiers — At the Pyramids — Ammu- 
nition from India — On the way home — Across France in 
war-time — The Channel passage — Elaborate precautions — 
Submarine nets — Paris in war-time — Madrid in war-time. 

TOWARDS the end of May, 1915, as I was 
feeling a bit " hipped " and run down, 
I decided to take a short sea voyage to 
Egypt, a land I had always wished to see. 

I had heard that there were numbers of wounded 
there, as well as a large number of unwounded 
soldiers, and I decided, therefore, to take my 
company with me ; arguing that if by so doing I 
was able to clear working expenses so much the 
better, and that in any case I should be sure of 
appreciative audiences amongst the convalescents 
and the less seriously injured. 

My company at this time consisted of six 
persons : myself, three dwarfs, a giant, and a 
contortionist. Two of the dwarfs, Signor and 
Madame Gondin, were reputed to be the smallest 
man and wife in the world, and their appearance 
in Egypt, and on board ship going out, created no 
end of interest and excitement. 

280 



IN EGYPT IN WAR-TIME 281 

We embarked at Tilbury on May 29th, 1915, 
on the P. & O. steamship Malwa. We were not a 
big crowd at first, but some of us — this does not 
apply, of course, to my humble self — were very 
distinguished. There was, for instance, Lady 
Peirse, wife of Admiral Sir R. Peirse, in charge 
of the Mediterranean Station. Lady Peirse took 
great interest in a charitable entertainment we got 
up on board, and later on, when we arrived at 
Port Said, her ladyship invited me to take tea with 
her and Sir Richard Peirse at their hotel. 

Mr. Justice Bucknill was another notable on 
board. But the most striking and interesting 
personality of all was that of the youthful-looking 
Maharajah of Jodhpur, who came straight to the 
ship from Buckingham Palace, where he had been 
dining with the King. He was travelling in great 
state with a splendid suite, yet he was most 
affable and unaffected, entering with zest into 
whatever sport or entertainment was going. 

The Maharajah had already raised some thirty- 
five thousand troops in his dominions, and 
remarking on this I ventured to say : " Well, 
your Highness, you have certainly done your bit." 

His reply was : " Bit be d d ! I'm going back 

to raise some more." His state, I may mention, 
is larger than any of the smaller European 
countries, and somewhat bigger than Saxony and 
Bavaria combined, while even in peace time the 
Maharajah maintains a force of eight thousand 
infantry and cavalry with one hundred and twenty 
heavy guns. 

The original intention, or at least so we were 
given to understand, was for the Malwa to 
proceed direct to Gibraltar. But there was 
evidently something more on the board than we 
passengers knew of, for soon after leaving the 



282 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

Thames we were stopped by a patrol boat and told 
to alter our direction, and this was repeated every 
four or five miles, so that we steered an altogether 
zigzag course. 

Eventually we were ordered into Plymouth, 
where we took on board some 250 bluejackets. 
These did duty during the voyage in various 
parts of the ship ; and especially aft, where was 
mounted a big 4.7 naval gun, obviously for use 
in case of our being chased by submarines. 

That this was no idle precaution we had good 
reason to know, for on resuming our voyage, and 
when we were about four hours out from Plymouth, 
a destroyer came racing up at so terrific a speed 
that she actually collided with us before she could 
turn, slightly denting her side. Her captain 
shouted an order to us to put back into port 
immediately, as there were submarines about ; 
and this, of course, was immediately done. At 
the same time all passengers were ordered to don 
lifebelts. 

There was considerable excitement, although 
not so much as one might suppose. The chief aim 
and object of practically everybody seemed to be 
to try and get a glimpse of the submarine or 
submarines, but in this we were unsuccessful, 
although several passengers declared afterwards 
that they saw a periscope. I myself saw nothing, 
although I was ready with my camera, and keeping 
an eager lookout. I did, however, succeed in 
getting a good picture of the collision between the 
destroyer and our ship ; but this was afterwards 
abstracted from my cabin — whether by the 
authorities, or by some individual who took a fancy 
to it for his own private collection, I do not know. 

Harking back to the lifebelts, I had almost 
forgotten to say that the members of my company, 



IN EGYPT IN WAR-TIME 283 

owing to their diverse 4 size, underwent probably 
the worst experiences of anybody on board in 
connection with these always trying and clumsy 
contrivances. The contortionist contorted as he 
had never done before. The giant could not find 
one to fit him, and was rushing about the decks, 
imploring the stewards, with tears in his eyes, to 
get him " an extra outside size in lifebelts.' ' The 
dwarfs, on the other hand, were unable to find any 
small enough, and were likewise wildly excited in 
consequence. In the end Signor and Madame 
Gondin solved the difficulty by sharing one 
between them. It accommodated them both, 
although it was rather a tight fit, and I could not 
help reflecting that if we were destined to go to the 
bottom the little couple would at all events do so 
as securely united in death as they are — I hope 
and trust — in their lives. The giant solved his 
difficulty by wearing a couple of belts which he 
lashed together, one of these being the property 
of one of the dwarfs. 

Well, the destroyer escorted us back to Ply- 
mouth, where we remained for a while ; and when 
we resumed our voyage we had an escort of two 
torpedo-boats, one on each side of us, and a 
destroyer leading the way. These kept with us 
till darkness set in, when, of course, as we steamed 
with all lights out, there was little to be feared 
from submarines. 

The rest of the voyage was uneventful, except 
that when we were nearing " Gib." a lot of talk 
arose about the submarine peril, and one evening 
after dinner the engines stopped suddenly without 
warning, and for several minutes the steamer 
remained motionless. 

The passengers looked at each other in an 
anxious manner, wondering what was the matter. 



284 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

Presently one of them, a portly, pompous 
person, advanced to the captain. 

" What seems to be the trouble, captain ? " he 
inquired. 

" Too much fog/' answered that worthy 
curtly. 

" But/' persisted the other, " I can see the 
stars overhead quite plainly/' 

" Maybe you can," came the grim reply. " But 
unless the boilers burst, or a German submarine 
pops up, we aren't going that way." 

At Gibraltar we stayed rather longer than usual, 
in order to unship the big stern gun, which was 
wanted for the next homeward-bound steamer. 
Between Gibraltar and Malta we gave an enter- 
tainment, assisted by volunteers from amongst 
the passengers, the proceeds being divided equally 
between the mine-sweepers and the Music-hall 
Benevolent Fund. There were also sports, the 
blindfold boxing for prizes amongst members of 
the crew being especially funny. Afterwards the 
prizes were presented by Lady Peirse, and my two 
male dwarfs gave an exhibition of trick wrestling, 
which was greatly appreciated. 

This particular dwarf of mine was quite a smart 
little fellow, and once, during a voyage to South 
Africa, he got the better of my giant in a rather 
ingenious fashion. He bet the big man a sovereign 
that he could reach further than he (the giant) 
could, each to stand bolt upright with his back to 
the wall, and to use an arm and hand only, and not 
to bend or sway any part of the body out of the 
perpendicular. The stakes having been duly 
wagered, the dwarf took up his prescribed 
position, back to the wall, and, reaching down, 
made a mark with a piece of chalk close to the 
floor on the wainscoting. This of course the 



IN EGYPT IN WAR-TIME 285 

giant could no1 do without bending, and the dwarf, 
therefore t won his bet . 

The only drawback to a very pleasant trip was 
that my contortionist developed a bad attack of 
appendicitis, whether owing to his unwonted 
exertions in connection with the lifebelt or not I 
am unable to say. We were all greatly upset, and 
the captain and the ship's doctor both recom- 
mended his being put off at Malta, in order that he 
might go into hospital there, and be operated upon. 
But the poor chap, with tears in his eyes, begged 
us to take him with us : " Mr. Carlton," he said, 
1 I've been with you so long ; let me stay on now 
till the end." 

So eventually we yielded to his entreaties, but 
when we were about three days from Port Said he 
became very much worse, and the ship's surgeon, 
after consulting with another doctor who chanced 
to be on board, advised an immediate operation. 
As this, however, would have meant that he could 
not possibly have been taken ashore at Port Said, 
but would have been obliged to go on to Australia, 
and as furthermore an operation on board ship 
in anything but the calmest weather is always an 
exceedingly risky business, the patient himself 
negatived this proposition. 

When at length we arrived at Port Said the poor 
fellow was hovering between life and death, but we 
managed to get him down the side, and eventually 
to Cairo, where he was at once admitted to hos- 
pital. Here he was promptly and skilfully operated 
on, and in the end, I am thankful to say, he com- 
pletely recovered. I should like to add that the 
people on the boat, from the captain downward, 
were most kind and sympathetic. There happened 
to be two nurses on board going out to Cairo, and 
these rendered invaluable help to the sufferer. 



286 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

His Highness the Maharajah of Jodhpur, too, 
expressed genuine concern for him, and before we 
quitted the boat at Port Said he slipped a ten- 
pound note into his hand, to help him during his 
convalescence. 

By rights, on disembarking at Port Said, I 
ought to have proceeded to Alexandria, where I 
was to open under a contract previously entered 
into with Signor Dalbagni, the proprietor of the 
Jardin Rosette Music-hall there. But I decided 
that I should not be justified in quitting the 
sick man until I had seen him safely into the 
hospital at Cairo, and to that place accordingly 
I went. 

Now Signor Dalbagni, besides owning the 
Jardin Rosette at Alexandria and another music- 
hall at Port Said, is also the proprietor of the 
Kursaal at Cairo, and as luck would have it he 
happened to be at the latter place when I arrived ; 
so, having left the patient in good hands, and 
feeling relieved of my responsibility in that 
direction, I set off for the Kursaal to interview 
him. I was in somewhat of a quandary, for I had 
contracted to give a complete show with a full 
company at all three of his halls, beginning with 
the one at Alexandria, and now, of course, I was 
minus my contortionist, and how to get another 
in Egypt I had not the remotest idea. 

Besides, it struck me as just possible that 
Signor Dalbagni might take advantage of my 
misfortune to try and dock me of part of my 
agreed remuneration, as the Germans and 
Austrians had done under somewhat similar 
circumstances, and this I had firmly made up my 
mind I was not going to put up with. It was, 
therefore, with somewhat mixed feelings that I 
presented myself before him. 



IN EGYPT IN WAR-TIME 287 

To say that he was surprised to sec me is stating 
the case very mildly. " Good God ! ' he ex- 
claimed. " Why, what are you doing here in 

Cairo ? Didn't you know that you are to open 
to-morrow night in Alexandria ? The bills are up 
all over the city." 

I told him I knew that, but that I had to come 
to Cairo, and I explained the circumstances fully 
to him. " I shall have to do without the services 
of one of my men, " I said in conclusion, " but 
that need not necessarily affect my show adversely, 
and I shall expect the same money as if he were 
present. I came out here principally for a change, 
and for my health's sake, as you know ; and if 
there is going to be any question of docking me, I 
would rather pack up my traps and return to 
England by the next boat." 

" No ! No, Mr. Carlton. I would not do a 
thing like that," was his reply. " But," he added, 
" cannot you find a substitute to take the sick 
man's place ? " 

" Why, certainly ! " I replied. " Nothing 
easier ! I'll set about engaging one at once, and 
communicate with you later on in the day." 

Now, I may remark right here that in saying 
this I was far from expressing my real feelings. In 
fact I was affecting a confidence I was far from 
experiencing. I had not the remotest idea where- 
abouts in Cairo I was going to engage a con- 
tortionist, nor had I, of course, any knowledge of 
the city, never having set foot in it before. But 
I had a knowledge of showmanship, and this I 
relied upon to stand me in good stead in the 
emergency. 

The first thing I did was to go and get a drink — 
a good stiff brandy-and-soda. Then I put on my 
considering cap, and lit a cigar. As a result of my 



288 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

cogitations, I started to get into conversation with 
the barman ; a likely-looking, well-set-up young 
fellow. He told me he was a Roumanian by birth, 
and that he had formerly travelled with a circus in 
India. 

" You're my man," I exclaimed to myself. 

Then, aloud to him : " Do you like the bar 
business ? " 

" No, I don't/' he replied. 

" Then why not chuck it," I said, " and come 
with me ? I'm in the show business. Will 
you ? " 

" What shall I have to do ?" he asked. 

" Oh, nothing much. Just come on the stage 
and pretend you're mesmerised, fall off a chair, and 
simple things like that. I'll explain it all in the 
train later on. What wages are you getting 
here ? " 

He mentioned a sum. 

" I'll pay you double that," I said. 

" All right," he replied, " I'll come." 

" Good ! " I cried. " We start for Alexandria 
to-morrow morning at seven o'clock. Be sure and 
be at the station in time." 

" But," he objected, somewhat taken aback at 
my precipitancy, " I can't do that. I've got to 
give a week's notice here." 

" Pay a week's money in lieu of the notice," I 
said. " I'll give you five pounds right now if 
you'll agree." 

" Right ho ! " he cried, " I'm agreeable." And 
I drew up the contract there and then in the bar, 
and he signed it. Then I went back to Signor 
Dalbagni, and told him that I had met and 
engaged an old acquaintance of mine, a circus 
performer just back from India, that he was twice 
as good a man as the other was, and that I had to 



IN EGYPT IN WAR-TIM 1 1 289 

pay him twice as big a salary (as a matter of fact 
it was about half), and so on, and so on, 

Dalbagni was quite pleased, and so was I, 
although I had to lay awake pretty well all night 
rearranging my show in my own mind, and spend 
all day rehearsing him in the train on the journey 
up. However, everything went off all right even in 
Alexandria, and during the fifteen days we played 
there I was able to teach my new man a lot, so 
that he was fairly efficient when we opened at our 
next hall. 

In fact I was greatly pleased with the success 
of the venture throughout, a success which w r as 
largely due to the patronage accorded me by our 
officers and soldiers. They were always in the 
j oiliest spirits imaginable, and up to all sorts of 
larks. When performing at Cairo, for example, 
in the course of my patter I introduced an old gag 
of mine as follows : " Oh ! Isn't he marvellous ? 
Let's throw some money at him." 

This I did for three evenings running. On the 
fourth night, when I again repeated the words, a 
lot of young officers in the stalls suddenly started 
showering handfuls of small coins at me. I was 
rather taken aback, for although I have often used 
the gag before in all sorts of places, nobody up till 
then had ever taken me seriously. However, I 
thought that as they had thrown the money on the 
stage, I might as well have it ; so directly the 
curtain rang down, I ran on, and gathered up all I 
could find, to the number of between two and 
three hundred pieces. I was quite pleased with 
myself, and grateful to the officers too ; until I 
discovered that the coins were milliemes, the 
smallest piece of Egyptian money, and worth no 
more than about one-tenth of a penny apiece. 
Of course it was meant for a joke, and as such I 
u 



2Q0 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

took it. The coins were handy for distributing to 
beggars, of which there are a goodly assortment 
in Cairo. 

There is no need for dustbins in Port Said. The 
pigs do all the scavenging, and very effectually. 
I remember that on one occasion, very late at 
night, or rather early in the morning, I was sitting 
on the verandah of my hotel, enjoying a final 
" peg " before turning in, when about fifty of 
these animals came trooping up the street. They 
rooted into every doorway, scurried up every close 
and alley, and out again, devouring every scrap 
of garbage. 

This, I was told, was their regular nightly 
custom. There is nobody to mind them, but 
hunger makes them do their work thoroughly. 
The city is divided into districts, each with its own 
platoon of pigs, and no porker from one district 
dare trespass on the domain of its neighbours. 
Personally I am rather partial to pork, but I 
barred it as an article of diet during the re- 
mainder of my stay in Egypt. 

Going to Cairo by train we passed the place 
where the Turks tried to get across the Suez Canal 
the previous February. The old trenches were 
still there. Our soldiers captured intact four of 
their pontoons, and these are now on view in the 
Zoological Gardens at Cairo. I went to look at 
them. They are beautifully made, of aluminium, 
and wonderfully strong and well finished. In them 
the Turkish invading army carried their water 
supply over the Desert of Sinai, and they after- 
wards used them, or attempted to used them, as 
boats, in order to bridge the Canal. 

We stayed some time at Cairo, going about the 
different camps, and giving our entertainment. 
There were an enormous number of wounded here, 



IN EGYPT IN WAR-TIME 291 

some very bad cases, but all quite merry and 
bright. Sometimes we gave our performance in 
the hospital wards, and sometimes to the con- 
valescents in the grounds, and everywhere our 
efforts to amuse met with the heartiest applause. 

Going to Alexandria I was greatly struck by the 
wonderful system of irrigation. It is quite modern 
hereabouts, I was told, but the result is that what 
was barren sand a few years ago is now covered 
with cotton fields. The natives draw the water 
from the river by means of small screw pumps, 
which they keep incessantly turning by hand. The 
combined resultant noise is terrific, resembling a 
series of motor explosions magnified a million- 
fold. 

At Alexandria were some 150 to 200 interned 
ships, big and little, that once flew the German or 
Austrian flags. It was a wonderful sight to see 
them all lying there in long serried lines, and gave 
one a fine idea of the all-powerfulness of the 
British Navy. We also saw here, for the first 
time, a number of Turkish prisoners. They were 
behind barbed wire playing tennis. I don't exactly 
know why, but Turks at tennis struck me as being 
distinctly funny. 

Alexandria was then the main base for the 
Dardanelles, and wounded men were everywhere 
about. We went the round of the various hospital 
camps, often performing in tents by candlelight, 
and walking across the desert in the dark in 
between whiles, challenged every few yards by 
armed sentries. It was rather a tiring, nerve- 
trying experience. 

I forgot to say that while we were at Port Said 
we gave a special matinee to the convalescents in 
the Theatre Khedival. The house was packed 
from floor to roof, and most of the audience 



292 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

attended clad in pyjamas. It was amusing to see 
them walking through the main streets in this 
airy attire. As I was watching them a Greek came 
along with an ice-cream barrow, and I told him to 
dish out his creams to the pyjama-clad Tommies 
until I told him to stop. He cleared his stock 
in no time. I never realised till then what an 
appetite for ice-cream the British soldier can 
acquire in a hot climate, and when recovering from 
wounds. 

Of course we went to have a look at the 
Pyramids, and with my usual luck I managed to 
lose my brand-new hat down a deep excavation 
there. However, it was retrieved by an Arab 
boy, who was lowered by a rope from above. A 
ticklish proceeding, but he didn't seem to mind it 
a bit. 

Arriving back at Port Said we found the 
Germanic there discharging. She was doing duty 
as an Australian trooper. Another little object- 
lesson in the silent might of our Navy. Near her 
was the P. & O. steamship Khyber, unloading five 
million rounds of ammunition for the Dardanelles 
operations. She had, I was told, another five 
million rounds on board, destined for Marseilles. 
All this was made in India by native labour. 

We left Port Said on July 22nd, a day late 
owing to the time occupied in unloading the 
ammunition. On the way back we organised 
another charity entertainment, the proceeds this 
time being divided between the French Red Cross 
and the M.H.A.B. Fund. " Tipperary " was 
rendered, first in English, and then in French by 
two Parisian members of an opera troupe who 
were on board, and everybody enjoyed themselves 
hugely. 

At Marseilles I left the ship and travelled over- 



IN EGYPT IN WAR-TIME 293 

land to Boulogne, Wc were, of course, out of the 
war area proper, and nothing much out of the 
common happened, barring sundry delays and 
side-trackings, due to troop trains proceeding to 
the front. At Boulogne I had to have my pass- 
port vised for the last time ; it was nearly filled 
up and covered now with signatures and seals. 
Also we had to submit to a very strict search, and 
any suspects, known as " special cases," were 
taken aside and examined separately. The main 
object of these precautions was to prevent gold 
from being taken out of the country. No more 
than eight sovereigns, or the equivalent in French 
gold currency, was allowed to be taken by any 
one passenger ; the balance had to be in paper 
money. 

This, as I have already said, was in 1915. A year 
later, in the summer of 1916, 1 was again in France, 
this time for a stay of three months, during which 
time I was appearing at the Folies Bergere, 
Revue, Olympia, and the Alhambra, Paris. 

Contrary to what I had been led to expect, I 
found the city quite gay and the citizens leading 
practically a normal life ; no restrictions as to 
lighting, treating, or anything of that sort, and all 
the time I was there I never saw a single search- 
light. 

This was all the stranger to me, because, of 
course, the war was very close. Just outside Paris, 
at St. Cloud, one could hear the guns quite 
plainly. 

There were lots of French soldiers there, and a 
sprinkling of English ones as well. The " poilus " 
I found were rather jealous of our " Tommies/' 
chiefly because the latter were better fed and 
better paid. Seeing an aeroplane flying overhead, 
they would say : u There goes some more buttered 



294 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

toast and ham and eggs for Tommy's breakfast." 
From this it must not be inferred, however, that 
they bore us any ill-will. 

From Paris I went to Madrid, where I was 
engaged to play at the Circo Parish for twenty 
nights. The return fares for myself and company, 
five people, amounted to £64, and the journey 
meant two full days and nights in the train. 

On my arrival I found an ominously strong 
German element in the city, and a large amount 
of pro-German feeling prevalent. Germans and 
Spanish pro-Germans walked about everywhere 
sporting the Hun colours, but I did not see one 
British flag worn. 

This perhaps ought to have warned me as to the 
reception I might expect to receive, especially as 
when I was dressing for my show I could hear 
the German artistes in adjoining dressing-rooms 
chewing their beloved gutturals. Some inkling of 
what was in store for me did, I admit, cross my 
mind just then. But I have ever been an optimist, 
and I started in at the Sunday matinee hoping for 
the best. 

Hardly had I commenced my performance, 
however, when I got the " bird " properly. Not 
just the ordinary " bird," but about three 
thousand people hissing, howling, shouting, shriek- 
ing, and stamping. I had never heard anything 
like it in my life before. The news had apparently 
got spread abroad that I was English, and the 
Germans, reinforced by the Spanish pro-Germans, 
had turned up in force. 

Furthermore, the majority of the Spaniards 
apparently would not believe that my conjuring 
show was a burlesque one. Many of them thought 
I was fooling them. This does not speak highly 
for the Spanish sense of humour, and perhaps 



IN EGYPT IN WAR-TIME 295 

explains why the Spanish music-hall stage con- 
tains scarcely a single comedian. 

Well, I did not like giving in easily, and I deter- 
mined to go on again for the evening performance. 
But things were even worse then. The din was 
terrific. I could not hear myself speak. Never- 
theless I went through my performance in what 
was practically dumb show, and when I came off 
I decided that my Spanish engagement was at an 
end. I accordingly asked the manager to release 
me, which he did, paying me one day's salary 
only ; and after three days' sightseeing I returned 
to Paris, where I put in another engagement at the 
Alhambra, in order to fill in my time before 
returning to England. 

When I was in Paris the celebrated Italian 
sculptor Sabati presented me with a splendid 
statuette of myself in my make-up. I had this 
copied in plaster of Paris and Mr. Reynolds, of 
the famous waxworks and museum in Liverpool, 
begged me to give him one for his show. Imagine 
my surprise when I walked into the waxworks 
next day to find myself in a glass case with a 
tablet underneath, " Carlton, the World's Famous 
Comic Conjuror," on my left being Charles Peace 
and on my right Crippen ! 

I did not find Madrid a particularly interesting 
city. The people there seem to me to be either 
very rich or very poor. There does not appear to 
be any middle class. 

On the last day of my stay there I was sitting in 
the smoke-room of the Palace Hotel with a friend 
of mine who was running a company at the Teatro 
Princesca, when a messenger came that the 
King of Spain intended to be present that night. 
We immediately motored to the theatre, and 
found about fourscore of detectives there. There 



296 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

were eight or nine behind the scenes, a lot more 
up on the roof, others behind the royal box, and 
scattered about among the audience, while outside 
there was a regiment of soldiers stationed. 

They told me that a bomb might be thrown at 
any moment, so I got on the opposite side of the 
theatre, as far away as possible from the box, 
where the King sat with his English wife, our 
Princess Ena. It was then that I reflected that, 
spite of all my troubles, I would rather be 
" Carlton " than the King of Spain. 

And now, in conclusion, here are a few odd 
stories that I could not possibly work in anywhere 
else — as in all my tricks it will be seen that I take 
the public into my confidence. Here they are — 
the stories, I mean. 

The majority of performers in this country live in 
" digs " or apartments. In America it is just the 
opposite, all travelling performers live in hotels. 
On the occasion of my last voyage back from the 
States there were a lot of American " pro.'s " 
coming over who were very anxious to know the 
ropes here. They were looking forward to cosy 
" digs," with a comfortable sitting-room and a 
nice fire, instead of the artificial steam heat, so 
they asked me to tell them of some good rooms in 
London. I told them I knew some tip-top ones. 
They thanked me, and I wrote down the address 
in their book, " 10, Downing Street." When 
they arrived at Euston Station they got all their 
" props " on to a taxi and immediately went to 
the address I had given them. I have kept out of 
their way since, so exactly what happened I do 
not know, but I heard that they duly drove up 
and asked for apartments. I wonder whether 
Lloyd George was at home ? 

I was once in the smoke-room of a very fashion- 



IN EGYPT IN WAR-TIME 297 

able hotel in the Provinces, where the sporting 
fraternity meet. The subject of conversation 
turned to running, and a smart Yank who was 
present, together with some of his compatriots, 
offered to bet £50 that he would run a mile in 
4 minutes 20 seconds on the road. As the record 
is 4 minutes 22 seconds, he was promptly accom- 
modated, and the money put up, the event to 
come off the following morning between two 
agreed mile posts on a straight road in the country. 
Everybody turned up with their cars and bicycles, 
and off he went, and he was some runner, believe 
me, for to the consternation and surprise of every- 
body, he did it in 4 minutes 19 seconds, thereby 
beating the world's record. The money was 
promptly paid over and we never saw the Yank 
again, but I found out afterwards that he and his 
pals had gone out the night before in the dark and 
shifted one of the milestones about two hundred 
yards nearer to the other. 

Dick Ford, an American comedian, was a great 
practical joker. He always took particular delight 
in annoying Irish policemen. I remember once in 
Kansas City he went up to an officer on point 
duty and asked him the hour about twenty times 
a day. The policeman stood it until Friday, and 
then, when he asked him for about the twenty-first 
time, " What is the time, officer ? " the policeman 
hit him on the head with his club, and said, " It 
has just struck one/' adding, " and sure it's a 
damned good thing it isn't twelve ! " 

The public does not generally know that the 
manager of a provincial music-hall on the big 
tours is not really a manager at all. These 
" managers " do not even know what their 
programme is until it is sent through from the 
head office in London on Wednesday or Thursday 



298 TWENTY YEARS OF SPOOF & BLUFF 

in the previous week, neither do they know the 
salary of the artistes until they receive the salary 
list, generally on Friday mornings. But on 
Monday they watch the show, and have to report 
to the head office in Town what they think of the 
acts, and what they value them at ; so when a 
certain manager of a music-hall in the Provinces 
came to me on the Monday morning during 
rehearsal, and said, " Hullo, Carlton. How are 
you ? Now, let me see, what is your salary this 
week ? " I replied, " I am only getting £150 this 
week, but of course it is a very old contract. " 
So, being — in his own estimation — a very clever 
chap, when he made his report out he valued my 
performance at £150 per week. He wanted to let 
those in Town know what a good judge he was, 
but when he paid me less than half on Saturday 
night, he told me they had written to him from 
the head office telling him what a rotten judge he 
was. He wanted to know what I meant by saying 
my salary was £150 a week. Of course, I said I 
was only joking. I have worked this many times, 
and it has not done me any harm. 

I remember once the Manchester bookmaker, 
George Gunnup, coming to London to look after 
the box office for the late Dick Burge at The 
Ring, Blackfriars. He always used to rave about 
London cured fish, and told me one day in great 
confidence that he had found a shop down the 
New Cut where a pal of his smoked haddocks in 
real oak sawdust. They were marvellous, he said, 
and he promised me a bag of his pal's fish to try. 
At this time he and his wife were staying with 
Marie Lloyd on her house-boat at Thames Ditton. 
One day he 'phoned up to my house at New 
Maiden. I was away working four shows a night 
at the time at Poplar and Ilford. My wife's 



IN EGYPT IN WAR-TIME 299 

mother — a dear old lady over eighty years of age — 
answered the telephone. He said he had a lovely 
bag of fish for me, and would she mind being on 
the platform at Maiden station at twelve o'clock at 
night when he passed through in the train on his 
way to Thames Ditton? She of course was there — 
though she generally goes to bed at seven o'clock — 
waiting for the lovely bag of wonderful smoked 
haddocks. As the electric train drew in George 
Gunnup handed her the bag of fish with his 
compliments. Dick Burge, Sam Mayo, and a lot 
of the lads were in the same compartment. When 
she got home and opened the bag it contained a 
rabbit skin, a pair of old boots, and a couple of 
bananas. Of course George Gunnup did not know 
anything about it. He had bought the fish, and 
told them at The Ring that it was for Carlton. 
Dick Burge and Sam Mayo, I believe, rang the 
changes on me, but I, of course, was not there, 
so the joke fell flat. The old lady took it in good 
part, but George Gunnup never forgave Sam Mayo 
and Dick Burge. 

I have now come to the end of my story. I 
hope you have been amused by these rambling 
recollections of a strolling player and trust that 
we shall meet again. You as my audience, and 
myself, as always, yours to entertain. 






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